Victory at the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition in October 2021 turned Bruce Liu into a worldwide sensation. Deutsche Grammophon’s live album of his competition recordings was released to rave reviews the following month, and the Canadian-Chinese pianist became an exclusive DG artist in March 2022. He released a series of Rameau and Chopin singles in 2022, and an acclaimed interpretation of J.S. Bach’s French Suite No. 5 in April this year (“[a] carefully conceived and superbly played reading” ClassicalMusic.com). As a result, he has already amassed over 25 million streams across all platforms.
Liu has now recorded his much-anticipated debut studio album, its repertoire spanning two centuries of French keyboard music and including two works new to the DG catalogue. Waves: Music by Rameau · Ravel · Alkan, featuring liner notes by Gramophone editor James Jolly, comes out digitally, on CD and vinyl (2 LPs), and as a signed limited-edition deluxe version on 3 November 2023. Three singles with performance videos will be released in advance of the album: the Gavotte from Rameau’s Suite in A minor on 18 August – coinciding with Liu’s Hollywood Bowl debut; “Une barque sur l’océan” from Ravel’s Miroirs on 22 September; and the Menuets from Rameau’s Suite in G major on 20 October.
Since winning the Chopin Competition Bruce Liu has become renowned for his breathtaking, charismatic live performances. Recording an entire studio album therefore posed a different challenge, but one he has relished. “For me, it’s in a studio that you can really make your own puzzle,” he explains. “It’s like making a piece of art, putting everything together.”
The Paris-born pianist has taken a historical approach to his repertoire choices, focusing on three French composers who played a part in the evolution of keyboard music between the 18th and early 20th centuries. From the extensive output of Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764) he plays excerpts from the Pièces de clavessin and Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, including programmatic works such as La poule and Les sauvages, as well as dance movements. Rameau was of course writing before the invention of the piano, and Liu has spent time studying with harpsichordists to refine the subtleties of his interpretations.
A celebrity in his own day, virtuoso pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813–88) wrote almost exclusively for his own instrument. Liu discovered his fiendishly difficult music when he was a student and was keen to introduce it to a wider audience. Both the exuberant Le festin d’Ésope and the peaceful Barcarolle are new additions to DG’s catalogue.
From the 20th century, Liu has chosen Miroirs by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Several of the suite’s five movements reflect the nature theme that runs through this album, whose title picks up both on this – notably Alkan’s Barcarolle and Ravel’s “Une barque sur l’océan” – and on Liu’s spontaneous style: “The sea is always changing,” he notes. “And my approach to the music I play is never fixed.”
Live audiences can enjoy the instinctive music-making captured on Waves at venues around the globe, with Miroirs and music by Rameau forming part of this exciting pianist’s recital repertoire for the 2023–24 season.