Decca Classics is thrilled to announce the new album from Australian-Chinese violinist Christian Li. Having topped the UK Classical Charts with his debut album in 2021 (with which he became the youngest artist ever to record Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) the award-winning musician prepares to release his second album, entitled ‘Discovering Mendelssohn’, on 7th July.
Here, Christian Li follows the journeys of Felix Mendelssohn – whose music was influenced by travel throughout his life – by recording pieces the composer wrote in Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Munich, London and Venice, including some brand new arrangements written especially for the violinist.
At the heart of the album is Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under Sir Andrew Davis, to stunning effect. Talking about the unique cadenza in the first movement Li explains, “I wanted to try and follow what is in the score … I also tried to create mysterious atmospheres, experimenting with dynamic and contour and pacing, to make it sound interesting and more like an improvisation.” Whether it is the intense drama heard in the racing close of the first movement or thoughtfulness in the final Allegretto, there is sensitivity between soloist and ensemble.
Throughout the album filled with pieces inspired by Mendelssohn’s love of travel, Christian invites several artists to collaborate. The album’s first single – ‘On Wings of Song’ from 6 Songs Op.34 – features players from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a stunning new arrangement for violin and chamber ensemble. ''This was the first time I’ve played with a harp,” says Li, “It was wonderful – the sound is so tender and almost magical, and combines perfectly with the violin”.
It is clear that Li, who is now 15, feels an affinity for Mendelssohn, something that can be heard in the sprightly Rondo Capriccioso op. 14, recorded here in a new arrangement for violin and piano. “Mendelssohn wrote this piece while he was teenager like me,” says Li. “It’s all about lyricism and virtuosity.” Something that – along with tremendous technique and emotional depth – Li has in spades.
From Mendelssohn’s collection of Songs Without Words Op.62, Li selects two – both presented in new arrangements. In the Venetian Gondola Song (written 1830–1841) Mendelssohn, who was captivated by the traditional flat-bottomed rowing boats, managed to recreate gentle sculling across twinkling canals. While the original pieces were written for solo piano, Li’s recording features a duet for violin and guitar, exquisitely performed here by Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang where, as Li explains, “We wanted to recreate the scenes and sounds that he would have heard.”
The second piece from the collection is Spring Song, which was written during Mendelssohn’s stay in London in 1842. For Melbourne-based Li who, like Mendelssohn, enjoys visiting new places while performing “The melody is beautifully light and flowing” he says, “You can imagine going for a walk, and sensing fresh new life in the air.”
The album also features music from Mendelssohn’s own inspirations and contemporaries, including J. S. Bach, Mozart and Schubert. Mendelssohn’s early admiration of Mozart is reflected in the inclusion of the joyful and contemplative Violin Sonata No 21 in E Minor, featured alongside Schubert’s Serenade and Erbarme dich by JS Bach.