This is insane.

August 30, 2007 at 03:17 AM ·

Replies (69)

August 30, 2007 at 03:49 AM · Oh my. Does he also vomit pea soup and do things with crucifixes he ought not to?

This had me laughing hysterically, actually. It IS insane. :)

August 30, 2007 at 04:00 AM · Whoa! Who is this guy?

You know, between the mind-bending, finger-melting virtuosity and the silly crowd-pleaser tricks, I can't help but wonder if this is something like what Paganini sounded like? Or something like his stage presence?

August 30, 2007 at 04:04 AM · The thought crossed my mind. Now, he just needs to break all but his G string and play an entire concert on just that, and I might take back my pea-soup-and-crucifix joke. ;)

August 30, 2007 at 04:10 AM · may be this kid

http://cnso.shenlaw.com/lichuanyun/

August 30, 2007 at 04:12 AM · Lol absolutely insane! He's way over the top..

August 30, 2007 at 04:26 AM · Here is another one of his:

http://www.violinist-chuanyunli.com/eng/index.asp

August 30, 2007 at 05:31 AM · Well, there is a definite need for an exorcism, or something. You would think that after all of that head banging he'd have a serious migrane, the producers of Advil would love him. I guess one can at least be greatful for his very lively performances though.

August 30, 2007 at 05:40 AM · He is Chuan Yun LI, the never grow up Peter Pan. He can be very serious, but when he is not he always acts like an uncontrollable little boy. He once went on stage with his little teddy bear, the one that he had been sleeping with since he was a kid). Mara mentions Paganini. LI’s complete recording of the Paganini’s 24 (the earlier set that he did when he was 13 or 14) is indeed very good and I somehow also feel that it is very Paganini-like.

He is the kind of persons who know nothing about things like money and public relation. He just loves to play his heart out. He often gives concerts in some small settlings, for free. I attended two of his mini concerts at the University of Hong Kong Museum (going to a concert in a Museum inside a colonial building is quite an experience). One was paired with an exhibition of 5 Strad and one Del Gesu, and one Guandagnini, sponsored by B&F. He played the valuable instruments one after the other, and making personal comments in between. I was less than 20 ft away from LI and the priceless instruments. It was quite an evening.

He might appear to be a show-off in the video but I am sure that he was just entertaining himself, his friends and the audience.

August 30, 2007 at 06:11 AM · On the first one, did you get to the part where he takes the frog off his bow, loops the hair over the top and bows with the stick on the bottom to play on all four strings? It's just about exactly in the middle of the clip. OMG!

August 30, 2007 at 07:25 AM · Laurie,

That thing with the bow is often used by some teachers to demonstrate solo Bach. He used it to great effect.

August 30, 2007 at 08:17 AM ·

August 30, 2007 at 08:38 AM · As far as I know, the four-string technique was pioneered by the jazz violinist Joe Venuti, aka "Four-String Joe." It's fun to try, but don't use a good bow!

The videos are wild...

August 30, 2007 at 11:14 AM · I worked with Chuan Yun quite a bit. He is an extraordinarily gifted violinist. He is also very self effacing and a little bit shy but has a great sense of humor. He likes to do these "fun" things on the violin.

August 30, 2007 at 01:19 PM · i think it will be truely insane if delay said li is more talented than perlman...probably misquoted.

apparently li idolizes bruce lee since childhood. his physical stunts possibly bear influence from that ideation. what i would like to learn is how to drop onto the floor and not break the violin by accident:) on a second thought, i'll pass.

these clips again bring up a point that is often discussed. can you be yourself in the classical world? are you thinking/acting out of the box or over the top?

also, as an artist, why do you ever want to grow up???

August 30, 2007 at 02:16 PM · "are you thinking/acting out of the box, or over the top?"

What's the difference, really?

Maybe I'm just weird, but I really enjoy it when performers can be themselves. We always talk about how you put your emotions into a performance -- what about your humor? Your enthusiasm? Don't those count, too?

I agree, Al. Why would a performer want to grow up? When you grow up, you have to think about things like money, and PR, and ambition. As a child, you get to play to your heart's content for whomever wants to listen.

August 30, 2007 at 02:27 PM · I saw him playing Scherzo-Tarantella when he was six!

August 30, 2007 at 02:44 PM · It wasn't DeLay. It was a Maestro from the Beijing Conservatory, or something, it mentions that on his website. Ricci said he had immense talent, and so did Sassmanshaus.

August 30, 2007 at 03:48 PM · I'm quite aware this isn't a Baroque technique.

What I said was, some teachers do this little trick to teach Bach, those who want it to sound like an organ (Chaconne for instance).

August 30, 2007 at 05:56 PM · patty, what is the most insane thing you have done with violin playing?:)

i guess there may be 2 levels of it: one being you knowingly do something insane and the other being in retrospect it looks insane but in the heat of the moment, it felt just right:)

not promoting alcohol, but it is like for an average person to go through life without ever feeling a little buzzed...

August 30, 2007 at 06:34 PM · I've seen this kind of thing a lot, except never with a violin. It cracks me up. It's got to happen a lot with violin in private though.... Junior Brown has this kind of stuff as a big part of his act. I think it's a free flow, like speaking phony foreign languages. Ein ungsgenabe mit Oberliner nach unsgeboren uber schlagenamen! Gesundheit!

August 30, 2007 at 10:38 PM · yes thanks for correcting me - it was Joe venuti that made this popular.

August 30, 2007 at 10:47 PM · >He is Chuan Yun LI, the never grow up Peter Pan. He can be very serious, but when he is not he always acts like an uncontrollable little boy. He once went on stage with his little teddy bear, the one that he had been sleeping with since he was a kid). Mara mentions Paganini. LI’s complete recording of the Paganini’s 24 (the earlier set that he did when he was 13 or 14) is indeed very good and I somehow also feel that it is very Paganini-like.

He is the kind of persons who know nothing about things like money and public relation. He just loves to play his heart out. He often gives concerts in some small settlings, for free. I attended two of his mini concerts at the University of Hong Kong Museum (going to a concert in a Museum inside a colonial building is quite an experience). One was paired with an exhibition of 5 Strad and one Del Gesu, and one Guandagnini, sponsored by B&F. He played the valuable instruments one after the other, and making personal comments in between. I was less than 20 ft away from LI and the priceless instruments. It was quite an evening.

This is very interesting, Kam - thanks for sharing it.

August 30, 2007 at 11:03 PM · Venuti was a really great violinist, and quite a trickster. I've heard some funny stories about him.

August 31, 2007 at 03:39 AM · Wow. INSANE is right. That made my day. =)

August 31, 2007 at 04:52 AM · I went to Aspen with this guy. Amazing. Played the hell out of the Khachaturian...was one of Ms. Delay's favorite students..

August 31, 2007 at 06:45 PM · In the performance of the Paganini caprice, his harmonies and improvisation as well as his playing, were wonderful....by I would pay twice as much for a ticket to hear him if he would move like a mensch, a dignified person, instead of doing those hammy gestures and exaggerated movements that seem to be so fashionable lately.

August 31, 2007 at 08:40 PM · Chuan Yun has brought a contagious smile to millions of people throughout our planet.

Chuan Yun has brought a new interpretation to classical music,especially to younger listeners.

Hopefully,he is here to stay.

He is a superstar of the violin !

August 31, 2007 at 09:34 PM · Well said. The 50s was an age of Hollywood drama. We're way past that. It's the age of honest fun or something :) There's a real difference in times, which is going to be reflected. Else it's going to be purposely out of step and maybe not so relevant in human terms. Career-wise and ambition-wise, I'm sure the other will still do for quite a few more years though. Hell, maybe forever. There are still Elvis impersonators.

August 31, 2007 at 10:12 PM · I heard that he is autistic which could explain the funny stage antics. Maybe Mr. Corpus could shed light on this.

August 31, 2007 at 10:19 PM · Nothing there takes a mental condition to explain. Besides, autism is nicknamed "the nerd disease." It takes you the other direction :)

September 1, 2007 at 12:08 AM · Jim Miller wrote: "Else it's going to be purposely out of step and maybe not so relevant in human terms. "

I believe that present day music lovers are well able to respond to superb performing without phony baloney histrionics.

September 1, 2007 at 01:48 AM · My thinking is that what he's doing is less phony for him than say being motionless would be. Anyway, the encore piece looked completely natural to me, reserved if anything. Don't see how anyone could complain. Also, I think with improvisation, you either like it or don't. Nobody would care any how Charlie Parker was moving. If you say yes, but violin has this tradition, I would say the traditon is in flux, maybe even borrowing from an even older tradtion? The encore ends with him playing jazz, real jazz, not a careful arrangement with piano. Anything would be appropriate at that point. Let him tap dance. Not during Ave Maria though, but I doubt he would.

September 1, 2007 at 01:50 AM · Some players are not capable of coping with the total sincerity of Chuan Yun in his very unique approach to musicality.

He plays from his heart and this is evident,even though he may not obey rules that have been presented to violinists who conform to that which they have been indoctrinated to,through years of their own schooling.

Chuan's approach must be revered.No one performs like he does and probably no one could, the stamina to replicate even a fraction of his expertise will not be witnessed again.

This is his gift to the world !

September 1, 2007 at 02:16 AM · Hi, Kevin,

Chuan Yun is not autistic.

Regarding his stage mannerisms he is completely unaware of them. He doesn't act any differently when he plays for me in the privacy of my studio.

He once played the opening of the Mendelssohn concerto for me in multiple stops. Brilliant...

joey

September 1, 2007 at 02:39 AM · Thanks for the clarification!

September 1, 2007 at 02:52 AM · I wonder what people said about Paganini's playing when he was still alive. Probably the same 'That's insane!' I guess we are looking at another Paganini here. Just the style is different. The devil was replaced by Mr. acrobat.

Why not. Performing art is about entertaining the audience and this guy certainly does.

September 1, 2007 at 03:01 AM · Joey, it might be interesting to know some of what you work on with him, if it doesn't violate doctor/patient confidentiality. Important things like for example "Don't forget and play the Moto Perpetuo in double stops." :) Or, see if he'll come over and say hi.

September 1, 2007 at 03:58 AM · He's Chris Farley.

September 1, 2007 at 04:23 AM · I'm thinking more like Jack Black...School of Rock!

September 1, 2007 at 05:29 AM · He sure is amazing in many ways and very amusing to watch. But what about tone? He had a lot more core a few years ago.

September 1, 2007 at 08:03 PM · he's not much of a "lush sustaining beautiful tone" kind of player (like szeryng or kaler for example). His appeal is more demonic and gutsy like Gitlis. This is why he appeals right away.

September 1, 2007 at 10:46 PM · Oh man... I used to think that this was crazy, but not now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDRJvXV77VQ

September 2, 2007 at 01:49 PM · In response to Mr. Kam Cheung's comment:

"He is the kind of persons who know nothing about things like money and public relation. He just loves to play his heart out." , I totally agree with his viewpoint.

Mr. Li is another one of those mega-talented violinists of our century who probably won't make it into the upper-echelons of the super-celebrity status. I'm not saying that every violinist has to have the same goal of being a super-star celebrity violinist (i.e. as defined by big recording contracts, big artist fees, performing with top conductors/orchestras). I think Mr. Li is a very genuine artist who really loves to share music with people. If that is his goal and purpose for being a musician, he's doing an wonderful job. He is also doing a very outstanding job of striving for the highest level of violin technique and perfection. From a musicians point of view, kudos to Mr. Li. However, from a commercial business point of view, if he wants to take his career to the next level, he needs additional skills such as negotiations, marketing/pr, teaming up with top managers, etc.

Please understand that I'm not putting down Mr. Li at all as an artist. I have great admiration and respect and I want the very best for him and anyone else who works hard and pursues their dreams.

I think Rugierro Ricci said something along the lines that he's the best violinist of today since Heifetz.

September 2, 2007 at 02:27 PM · if only he did the left hand pizz variation.

i would love to see that!

September 2, 2007 at 05:47 PM · "Mr. Li is another one of those mega-talented violinists of our century who probably won't make it into the upper-echelons of the super-celebrity status."

That is absolutely right, because in order to make it into the top echelons, you have to basically do the same thing that everybody else has done for the last 50-75 years with only very minor variations. You have to play the same repertoire with minor variations. You have to play it the way people expect it to be played, with a tiny bit of leeway for individual creativity. You have to play in certain kinds of venues (concert halls), you have to play with other artists who have made it big by following the same rules, etc.etc.

Today a new cohort of mega-talented artists is emerging which refuses to stay in the box. Mr. Li will join their ranks. Others are Rachel Barton Pine, Nigel Kennedy, Matt Haimowitz, Giles Apap, Time for Three, the Kronos quartet, Maxim Vengerov.

September 2, 2007 at 06:16 PM · ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Excellent !!

The whole truth and nothing but the truth !

September 2, 2007 at 07:53 PM · It depends on how you define the "upper-echelons" you don't expect him to get to. Would anybody draw a bigger crowd than Kennedy or Kronos? You have Vengerov in the list too. If they don't constitute upper-echelons, I don't know who does. Even Bell, as conservative as he appears, has at least recorded with Bela Fleck, and even Sam Bush. Not unlike Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer...

But, just being a wild and crazy guy musically isn't valuable, regardless of how much technique you might have. I haven't seen enough of Li to know if he's more than that. It's interesting that classical music is the only genre where technique without substance doesn't instantly draw ridicule. Well, I guess country & western is that way too :)

September 2, 2007 at 07:44 PM · Yes, since when are RBP, Kennedy and Vengerov not in the top echelons??

September 2, 2007 at 10:57 PM · Greetings,

I thought Kennedy was in the top -bunk- in whatever penal instiution he currenly resides in.

Cheers,

Buri

September 2, 2007 at 10:56 PM · "Yes, since when are RBP, Kennedy and Vengerov not in the top echelons??"

Point well taken, even though there is perhaps another league with Perlman, Zukerman, AS Mutter, Hahn, that they aspire to -- at least in terms of fees and in constant demand for engagements with "A" level orchestras.

September 2, 2007 at 11:52 PM · Roy rather than what they aspire to, I think you're projecting what you'd aspire to in their place. Some of the people in your list like Zukerman I can't even stand to look at. Gives me the creeps. And to listen is just boring more of the same, as you yourself admitted. It sounds like and is like a 75-100 year old gimmick, really. Honestly, if that's music then a high quality paint by numbers is art. It's not art - it's safety. I'm sure some people aspire to their bank accounts and they in turn aspire to Warren Buffet's; and to other people material wealth isn't impressive in itself.

September 2, 2007 at 11:56 PM · OK, seriously, is there a more in-demand violinist these days than Maxim Vengerov? I'm sure there are others like Perlman etc. who are equally sought-after, but you're making it sound like Vengerov hasn't hit the big leagues yet.

September 3, 2007 at 12:14 AM · Mara, seriously, who cares who's more in-demand? There are more interesting themes here.

September 3, 2007 at 12:14 AM · I was simply responding to Roy's comments about the "higher echelon that they aspire to", which I found a bit odd. Apologies for not being profound enough.

September 3, 2007 at 12:27 AM · "I was simply responding to Roy's comments about the "higher echelon that they aspire to"

The interesting thing is the assuming what someone aspires to, not what violin player is in more demand. I don't care who's more in demand but my apologies if you do :)

September 3, 2007 at 12:48 AM · I was responding to this comment he made: "there is perhaps another league with Perlman, Zukerman, AS Mutter, Hahn, that they aspire to -- at least in terms of fees and in constant demand for engagements with "A" level orchestras." That is, defining the "higher echelons" as "who makes the most money and plays with the biggest orchestras." Last I checked, Vengerov was definitely in the top end of that category, so the comment that he and those others "aspire to the top echelons" (as defined in the earlier statement!!) struck me as a bit strange. I don't much care who is the most popular or sought-after either, just how shallow do you think I am?

September 3, 2007 at 01:00 AM · Well, this discussion has certainly wandered from the original topic. My apologies if I have offended anybody. My main intention was to express my approval and admiration for Mr. Li and anybody else who has the courage to break from the norm in a substantial way. He has my admiration even if he sometimes seems tasteless and self-indulgent. After all, it is so easy these days to appear to have "artistic integrity" and gravitas, just by following the rules blindly, observing every dot and dash in the score,and playing the same safe mainstream way -- we all know how to do that.

September 3, 2007 at 01:50 AM · "just how shallow do you think I am? "

Well because you care what I think about you, you're ok by me ;) That's pretty damn rare.

September 3, 2007 at 02:09 AM · We all care what you think, Jim. What's wrong with Zukerman? His Bruch is beautiful!

September 3, 2007 at 02:32 AM · Haaa. I don't know if you're joking about Bruch or not. Anyway, when I was coming up he was a K-mart version of Perlman. Like Perlman's little brother that tagged along sometimes. His daughter might be interesting though. I almost went to see her when she came to town. Can't remember why I didn't. Probably laziness.

September 3, 2007 at 02:49 AM · Still sticking by the middle portion of Roy Sonne's comment above this post.Roy hit it dead on in his take on the scenerio involved.

There are always a few who disagree but Roy's comment is the truth and Roy has the validity of experience to more fully explain this facet of the life of a musician.

Sure,his comment-especially the last sentence-or so-may need to be revised in the minds of some.

Nit-picking by some of you !!

Just realize a great artist such as Chuan Yun----NONE of you could do what he has done!!

Prove me wrong !

Show us your video,see how you compare to Chuan Yun in a take similiar to his or anyone else regarding any Paganini caprice !

September 3, 2007 at 03:52 AM · Nit-picking by some of you !!

Just realize a great artist such as Chuan Yun----NONE of you could do what he has done!!

Prove me wrong !

Show us your video,see how you compare to Chuan Yun in a take similiar to his or anyone else regarding any Paganini caprice !

____

No question Joe. There are very very few of us on this website who can do anything close to what Li can do.

I used to hold the opinion that you do, and in many cases I do withhold my opinion because I don't feel worthy to express it.

But the whole point and enjoyment of music is being able to express your opinion, even if you can't match what is being presented in front of you.

Audiences express opinions about sports, about professional football quarterbacks who lack speed, soccer players that lack footwork, dancers who fail to jump as high as Baryshnikov in his prime, mountains that come short of Everest, and violinists that do things that they think others do better.

I think it is okay to have these opinions - while at the same time acknowledging that we are precisely what you say - people who are throwing rocks from just outside of our own glass houses.

It is from the joy of watching the process - be it sports, arts, nature, be it any form of recreation - that we hold these opinions.

It is also wonderful to know that while you may not play as well in most facets as some of the greats, you still have something completely unique, worthwhile and interesting to say through your instrument as well.

For the record, I think Li is awesome. :)

September 3, 2007 at 04:12 AM · No I wasn’t joking and I like Perlman very much too. Li is technically awesome but I haven't heard enough of his playing and don’t know whether he can be fairly compared with Zukerman and Perlman as a musician. Judging from what he explained to his friends while he was playing in the first video, I saw a very passionate talented kid but nothing terribly profound.

September 3, 2007 at 04:46 AM · I forgot you could understand him speaking. What does he say? Profoundness-wise I'm pretty jaded. I think just a video like the first one is pretty profound in itself...

September 3, 2007 at 11:13 AM · So what you're saying, Jim, is that Perlman is the more dominant personality? So what! People don't like backing "losers" (to grossly distort the picture for the sake of illustration) because they get less return for it, but in terms of sheer talent and musicianship I'm always totally awestruck by the younger of the two.

September 3, 2007 at 12:52 PM · Have to tell you a story about a similar event to one already mentioned above, officially reported here:

http://www.stradivarisociety.com/News-SpecialChinaEvening.htm

This one was in Chicago, I was there, and four Chinese artists, including Li, were receiving instruments from the Strad Society. I had no idea what I was in store for from Li, playing-wise, but the funniest thing happened before all of that. The evening had a "press-conference" feel to it, with tons of cameras, lights, etc. The speaking was awkward from many parties as there were plenty of people to thank (including founders Geoff Fushi and Mary Galvin), preliminaries to get out of the way. It didn't help that it was in the 80s or 90s outside, humid, and the poor hall we were in was not air-conditioned! Everyone was wet with sweat.

But! A special surprise that night, beyond the four performances, was promised in a speech by the director of the society, also Chinese. She seemed to be casting wary glances at the four recipients throughout, hoping they would say the right things when it was their turn to give thanks. When Li's turn came, her nervousness increased palpably. He is, as you can see, pretty nonchalant and we all leaned forward to hear what he would say. He didn't exactly stay centered in front of the microphone and the speech was pitched between "mumble" and "secret". Except for his last line, after he had apparently finished and received his applause: he came back, and said quite audibly, "Oh, happy birthday Mrs. Galvin." A huge round of applause! The director of the Society had to follow that, and she was throwing the virtual daggers at Li as she began speaking. "Thank you. Actually, Li Chuanyun--ruin--our surprise." (heated pause, no reaction from Li) "Our next recipient..." I hope they didn't get me on video laughing the rest of the evening.

Needless to say, Li's playing was the likes of which I hadn't seen before, and I remember it still. At one point, he was walking backwards and forwards while he played and during a backwards jaunt, he tripped over the many cables that were strewn across the stage. This was in the middle of "Dance of the Goblins" or similar, mind you. He caught himself somehow without interrupting the piece, with no change of facial expression.

I'm still not sure if I was there or if it was some kind of sweat-induced hallucination!

September 3, 2007 at 01:24 PM · I think it's been mentioned a while ago that Chuanyuan Li played for the soundtrack of the movie Together. It was some intense playing.

It seems like this thread moving towards the question: What does it mean to be a violinist?

September 3, 2007 at 02:08 PM · Yes, Kevin, Chuan Yun played the soundtrack to the Chen Kaige movie TOGETHER.

By the way, I think that the first YouTube clip at the top of this page was part of an hour long(?)documentary Hong Kong TV made about Chuan Yun several years ago.

September 4, 2007 at 12:45 PM · a while back someone from asia brought back a dvd of li titled la ronde des lutins (i suspect it was produced and made in china thus not directly sold in the west).

he played 3 violins on loan (strad bello 1687, strad ries 1693 and guarneri balokovic) with robert koenig on piano in a concert hall in ?beijing. 16 short solo pieces altogether, the usual, plus some chinese pieces.

of note is a well known traditional chinese music, originally meant for pipa, called ambush on all sides by yang baozhi. i guess the backdrop is like a high tension military ambush that rans the gamut from suspense to fury. it was a wild ride with li at the wheel. truely insane.

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