The Chinese pianist answers our 'If You Were' questions.
If you could play only one piece in the whole repertoire from now on, what would it be?
It is very difficult to decide, I think it is Liebesträum by Liszt. This is one of my favourite pieces since I was young. It has seen me through my various stages of development as a pianist as I mature, and I have played it in numerous concerts with various emotions. It reminds me of my path to where I am today, and it inspires me to still to be a good musician that I envisioned since I was young. Today I still sometimes play it as an encore.
If you could play only one composer from now on, which would it be?
When I was younger I would choose Franz Liszt. I love his music with a lot of passion, emotion and his exuberant display of musical techniques. Now, I am more inclined to perform music with a depth of feeling, such as Chopin. His music resonates with the heart and reflects strength in mind and soul.
One pianist, dead or alive, you’d travel long and far to hear?
Vladimir Horowitz. He is a legend.
One concert hall you’d love to play in?
I am fortunate to have played in various prestigious concert halls in the UK – the Royal Albert Hall and the Wigmore Hall are among a few. I hope I will have the chance to play at the BBC Proms. And also I would love to play in the Carnegie Hall one day.
Here's Sunny Li playing the two pianos:
What would be your advice to an amateur pianist about how to improve?
Practice, practice and practice! 1. Take your time to practice and do not be impatient about seemingly slow progress. 2. Always repeat erroneous sections till perfect, do not repeat the entire piece. 3. Practice with a metronome. Even professional concert pianists practise slowly with a metronome before the concert. 4. Increase repertoire hugely. 5. And listen to various recordings from maestros.
If you weren’t a pianist, what would you be?
Maybe a painter. I like creative arts.
One person you’d love to play for (dead or alive)?
I would love to play for my grandfather. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to see him as he passed away before I was born. I was inspired by my father to pursue classical music, and he was inspired by my grandfather. He would be pleased to see me becoming a classical pianist that was a result of his love for music.
One composer you’re not quite ready to tackle?
I think there is no composer that I am not ready to tackle. I appreciate all kinds of music and I am open to play pieces from all composers. I would sink in time and effort to resolve any challenges that might prevent me from playing a piece as truly as I can represent it. If a piece from any composer attracts me, I will work on it until I can play it perfectly. I also find that I always have new discoveries even in the same piece, as I become more experienced, so for me, usually working on a piece means a lifelong engagement.
What other types of music do you like listening to?
Other than classical music, I like listening to pop songs and jazz. I also enjoy playing them in my leisure times.
Watch Sunny Li in rehearsal, with her can DingDing at her feet: