EDITOR'S CHOICE, 5 stars review by Erica Worth
Piano Reflections (2014)
Yet another new pianist on the scene. But wait – this is different! Here is a young pianist with a rare sense of inborn musicality. The London-based, Shanghai-born Ji Liu has a technique to match any virtuoso, however, it is his sensitive and unpretentious musicality that shines forth in this well-recorded debut album. How rare it is to hear a pianist satisfied with presenting the music as written and not forcing any personal idiosyncrasies on the performance.
The voicing of the opening Mendelssohn/Rachmaninov is played with great elegance, a Liu trademark you also hear in the Liszt Liebestraum No 3. His 'Moonlight' Sonata might present a slightly slower middle movement than we normally hear, but again that only underlines the healthy and unforced way with which he approaches this well-known work. Rest assured that the fast third movement shows fire and energy, also evidenced in the Saint-Saëns Danse macabre that closes the disc.
His way with the two Chopin Nocturnes is classy, and the C minor builds up to a well-controlled climax. It's fun to hear a composition by Chinese composer Wencheng and the elaborate Schubert Ständchentranscription and both played with charm and finesse. Liu's Debussy Suite Bergamasque could very well be one of the best modern recordings, especially the 'Clair de lune', which is refreshingly free of sentimentality and flows naturally into the final 'Passepied'. Yes, there are too many pianists around these days, but way too few of them are anything like Ji Liu.
Review by Colin Anderson
Liszt Totentanz at Southbank Centre (2013)
'…there was much to impress in Ji Liu's fearless glissandos and a saturnine lyricism that attracted supernatural suggestion…. Ji Liu remained as cool as a cucumber as his fingers played with fire….this was a fine performance of a masterpiece and established Ji Liu as one to watch.'
Mail on Sunday
Review by David Mellor
If you want to introduce someone to the joys of the classical piano, this album is hard to beat. Ji Liu, now in his mid-20s, was born in Shanghai but has lived in London since 2007. Last year he made a big breakthrough with Piano Reflections, a debut album that shot to the top of the Official UK Classical Chart. This follow-up disc is if anything even better, showing real development in his confidence and musicianship.
Liu is a fine player technically, perhaps not a show-stopper like Lang Lang, but possessed of something his compatriot thinks he can do without- judgment. Whereas Lang Lang continually pulls the music around to pleas his ego, Ji Liu's considerable talents are firmly placed at the service of the music he plays here, in a wide-ranging recital that includes Chopin and Gershwin favourites, but also stretches out to embrace rarer stuff.
There are two pleasing Chinese pieces, Colourful Clouds Chasing The Moon, and the In That Place Wholly Faraway. He also displays no lack of virtuosity in Arcadi Volodos's fiendishly difficult transcription of Mozart's Turkish March, and no lack of showmanship in the jazz pianist Leon Doucet's Chopinata, a new one on me, and a real discovery.
Soundwise, the recording made last August on Merseyside, is of the highest quality and, at more than 71 minutes, is longer than most similar offerings. So even if you know a lot about the classical piano, there's still no reason to hesitate.
Reviewed by William Ruff
Bach Goldberg Variations at Royal Concert Hall
"The audience... surely left exhilarated by beautifully delicate playing, consummate technical control and an entirely convincing translation of a piece originally written for harpsichord into the piano's sound world. Ji did not announce the name of his encore but, even if he had played nothing else, its wit, delicacy and total mastery of tonal colour would have convinced the audience that they were in the presence of a world-class pianist."
Review by James Manheim
...Ji Liu has several things going for him that keep you listening. One is that he is a composer himself, and he does several of the arrangements of non-piano pieces here. Sample "The Aquarium," from Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals, where he effectively favors his own strengths: the liquid quality of his upper register is put to good use, as it is in Ravel's Jeux d'eau. Ji Liu delivers power where needed, in Rachmaninov's Spring Waters (another of his arrangements) and Stravinsky's "Danse infernale"...
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2
Royal Liverpool PHilharmonic Hall
Rachmaninov's impossibly romantic Second Piano Concerto, the musical equivalent of a big, pillowy peony, played in gorgeous Technicolor by the orchestra, and with a lovely lightness by Ji Liu.The 25-year-old – wisp thin, straight-backed and un-showy – has a stillness about him, and an elegant, long-fingered, lyrical touch. There was smooth, sympathetic support from the Phil, including a beautifully sweet clarinet solo from Angelo Montanaro, and a pleasing rounded sound.