• Team Leia

13-YEAR-OLD Leia Zhu Performs with Festival Strings Lucerne Like a Gigantic One

Concert (on 11 Oct, 2020) reviewed by Roman Kühne, on 13 Oct 2020, page 18, Luzerner Zeitung

For sure, she's the typical prodigy. At only 13 years old, she plays the violin and has the total control of all the technical difficulties. Almost at the same time she started going to school in Newcastle, she also joined the Guildhall School of Music in London. At the age of 7 she began to take masterclasses, then started playing concerts and soon appeared at festivals.

Everyone wanted to see and hear this British girl with Chinese roots. London, the Salzburg Festival, Moscow and the Berliner Philharmonie. In summer 2018, as the youngest in the "child prodigies" series at Lucerne Festival, Leia Zhu performed with the Festival Strings Lucerne.

AT 13, MATURE LIKE A OLD SOUL At the age of 13, mature like a veteran and yet when you look at this young lady on Sunday evening in the Hotel Schweizerhof at second concert of the new Chamber Music series of the «ChamberPlayers» the Festival Strings playing, your eyes could not believe what your ears hear.

Here is the expression 'the child prodigy' seems come from a different world. Leia's presentation and performance are astounding not simply because she is “young”, but because it is convincing

Of course, the choice of programme is clever. Instead of a popular big piece, it includes the Duo for Violin and Cello composed by the Hungarian Zoltán Kodály. Together with Jonas Iten, principal cellist of the Festival Strings, Leia displayed a fiery mix of brilliance and depth in a most evocative way. Between them they performed this gripping music quite theatrically. The first movement passed mysteriously and eerily. Then the performance got denser until the wild steps in this dark mania got broken.

The second movement is gorgeous. The figures move in a nostalgic and fragile mood from the cello to the violin. A lost bit of earth, far away from homeland and security. Leia Zhu and Jonas Iten flow in these waves as if from a single body. Their playing is crystal clear. Sounds are chosen with care and transparency. A rich and inspiring moment.


The other pieces follow seamlessly after this highlight. First, an arrangement for two violins of Shostakovich’s “Five Movements”, an excerpt from his compositions for film music and theatre. Here Leia plays together with Daniel Dodds, the artistic leader of the Festival Strings. The uplifting introduction as well as the romantic waltz are performed here in a refined, careful and also thrilling way. To hear how Benjamin Engeli partners the two soloists in a light, unobtrusive and highly musical manner is a real joy.

For the Finale we hear the well-known Piano Quintet in A major by Antonin Dvorak. With its tendencies to folk music, it rounds off well this evening‘s theme 'In Popular Tune'. Perhaps the verve experienced in the previous duo piece is not quite matched here in the first two movements. However, the Scherzo with its dreamy moments and specially the Finale bring musical super tension into the highly decorated Zeugheersaal.

Suddenly this very special feeling is back. This special feeling which create a little miracle with a live concert. The soft singing sound of the viola player Valentine Ruffieux. The romantic dancing effect of the final movement. The public reacts enthusiastically.

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©2020 by Violinist Leia Zhu.