A sold-out Queen’s Hall, surrounded by return-ticket scavenging hopefuls, is the first of many clues to the noted talents of Canadian pianist Bruce Liu ahead of his only Edinburgh International Festival performance. In an expertly conceived programme to showcase his talents, Liu begins a six-piece set with Rameau’s Les Tendres Plaintes.
The simple fact is that the flawless technique, with an intrinsic comprehension of creativity, confirms why Liu won first prize in the 2021 Chopin International Piano Competition. This set of six pieces builds a foundation of respect from the audience towards the pianist (though there was no shortness of this to start with) – particularly with the crispness of Les Sauvages, or the lingering trickles of tinkering keys as Liu closes with an entirely confident Suite en la: Gavotte et six Doubles, blending together the moments of relaxation with a steady and quickening pace.
With the pieces in place, and the fingers nimbler and warmed, Liu’s expertise is tested with Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan, with a pianist focus on Mozart’s operatic Don Giovanni. It’s a fantastical piece, precise and flirtatious with audiences – and though without the vocal accompaniment to enhance the number, Liu strikes magnificence with an indulgently flowing aria. It’s at this point that the audience is utter putty in the pianist’s hands.
It enables Liu to push the performance element from one so young to grasp the music so thoroughly – from fingertip right through to his core, it’s plain to see the artistry and passion exuding from his face. This playful manner manifests later in Liu’s unexpectedly lengthy encore sequences, where Chopin’s Là ci darem la mano comes with a distinctly more child-like enjoyment of Liu’s talents – toying with both the audience and the Queen’s Hall’s Steinway piano. He lingers, teasing the audience for a third encore piece, a charming surprise with a Scottish flair as he continues to trickle up and down the ivories, cascading enjoyment through the venue.
It is post-interval where Liu’s dexterity and ability shines, as transitions flawlessly between a series of elementally structured pieces with the five Ravel’s Miroirs. Trickling at first, the melody is water-like and pristine before a whirlwind of speed infuses the recital with a building fervour, delivering an eruption of deft ability. All delivered with a smirk and small jibes with the audience, Liu’s personality elevates what is already an enthralling 95 minutes.