NPR's Slingshot: George Li

Jan 29, 2018

With a 1000-watt smile and warm-hearted performances, the 22-year-old pianist is proof that classical music can drop the pretense and kick some butt.

The young American pianist George Li has a winning smile that can light up a room — or better yet, a concert hall, like the famed Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his debut recital album was recorded. Little George was only 10 years old when he made his public debut. These days, the 22-year-old Massachusetts native's career continues to blossom since capturing the silver medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. He remembers it as being "like the musical Olympics."

Li has a busy performance schedule, but there's still time for college and sports. He takes literature courses at Harvard while studying piano privately and, living in Boston, he's a huge Red Sox fan. At the keyboard, his Haydn sparkles, his Chopin is passionate and he plays blockbusters, like Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," with the heart-on-sleeve swagger of the old-school masters like Vladimir Horowitz.

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-Tom Huizenga, NPR Music