The Story of the Young Violin Prodigy Christian Li

Christian Li performing with a small orchestra.

Christian Li was born in 2007 and started learning violin at five, and he's never looked back. (Image: via Christian Li)

Christian Li was born in 2007 and started learning the violin at five, and he’s never looked back. The 15-year-old teen violin virtuoso from Australia first gained international recognition when he won the Menuhin Competition at only 10 in 2018. He was the youngest-ever winner of the competition, sharing the joint Menuhin Junior First Prize with Chloe Chua. 

Before winning the much-coveted Menuhin prize, he made his solo debut with the Australasian Orchestra aged 9. Christian also won the violin category of the Young Artist Semper Music International Competition in 2017 in Italy. Since then, he has gone on to achieve more “young-evers.”

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Before winning the much-coveted Menuhin prize, he made his solo violin debut with the Australasian Orchestra aged 9.
Before winning the much-coveted Menuhin prize, he made his solo debut with the Australasian Orchestra aged 9. (Image: via Christian Li)

Christian’s inspiration 

Christian says he first began playing the piano, but he moved on to the violin because it felt more natural. He believes his teachers have been the most inspirational figures in his musical development since he was five. 

In an interview with Australia’s ABC New Breakfast, Christian said: “I remember my first violin teacher liked me very much. And he kept telling my mum I was so special and talented.”

“Looking back now, I think it’s my violin teachers’ recognition and encouragement which gradually made me enjoy practicing and performing in front of an audience.”

Today, Christian practices under Dr. Robin Wilson, Head of Violin at the Australian National Music Academy in Melbourne. He says his teachers also help him select the best pieces to play. It’s a delicate balance between the pieces of music he loves and those suitable for his musical development.

Several violinists inspire the master teen violinist, both from the present and past. He says Maxim Vengerov is his “ultimate hero.” However, he also loves older-generation violinists such as David Oistrakh.

Living for the music and the crowd

In 2020, Christian became the youngest-ever signing of Decca Classics. Decca Classics is a London-based classical music record label established in 1929.

For his first recording with Decca classics, Christian chose the extremely difficult La ronde des lutin (Dance of the Goblins). This piece is the best-known work of Italian violinist and composer Antonio Bazzini. The piece is full of technical complexities aimed at showcasing the violin to its full advantage. Other violinists who have recorded this beautiful piece include Maxim Vengerov, Yehudi Menuhin, and Itzhak Perlman.

A year later, he became the youngest violinist to record Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in collaboration with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. His performance video has garnered over 2 million views on YouTube.  

The Covid pandemic lockdown forced him to cancel or reschedule his worldwide performances. Still, Christian believes it was also a blessing to him. The pause has allowed him to improve and add more music to his repertoire.

“When I have lots of performances, and I tour around the world, I can only practice a little bit, only on the pieces that I need to perform,” he said. The pandemic gave him time to practice the speed and accuracy required to perform the most difficult pieces.

In 2020, Christian became the youngest-ever signing of Decca Classics.
In 2020, Christian became the youngest-ever signing of Decca Classics. (Image: via Christian Li)

It was such a relief for Christian when the international lockdown was lifted. He was happy to resume his worldwide performances again and participate in the Verbier Festival Academy. 

“It felt great to be able to play with piano and orchestra and perform in front of a live audience again,” he said.

Christian loves playing for great audiences and takes pleasure when people enjoy his music. He says he loves it when people tell him they felt joy or were moved by his performance. “I can feel their expressions and how they feel when I play; I can feel the energy and the excitement — and a little bit of the heat.”

What next for Christian

The Australian-Chinese young violin prodigy (don’t call him that) would like to travel and perform with orchestras worldwide in the future. He also hopes to play chamber music with other musicians.

He loves to play the music that explores emotions, and his single The Harvest Song of the Fishermen shows his talent as a composer and violinist. It is a piece that also explores his Chinese heritage.

So what next? The world can only wait as we enjoy this incredible teen violinist’s present virtuosity.

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