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Tuesday’s recital at Bass Hall actually won’t be the first time Li Yundi has played here in Fort Worth. The now-26-year-old native of Chongqing, China came to town in 2000 to perform as part of the TCU/Cliburn Piano Institute, which is now called Piano Texas.

Since then, he’s become famous enough to film his own Nike commercial riding a racing bike to get to a concert. The classical music world has pegged Li as the refined, subtle opposite of his showier and flashier (and some would say coarser) compatriot Lang Lang. There’s a grain of truth in this comparison, but it’s still a misleading one. The feathery-haired Li has his own streak of showmanship; check the YouTube video of him playing a ridiculous and very entertaining four-hand version of Mozart’s “Rondo alla turca” with pop singer/actor Jay Chou.

Li’s career to date has so far focused on Mozart, Chopin, and Liszt, and he’ll be giving us a dose of those composers in his program, which includes Chopin’s “Funeral March” Sonata and Liszt’s moody Ballade in B minor. However, he’ll also be throwing in something we haven’t heard from him: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the suite of pieces inspired by a series of paintings that the 19th-century Russian composer saw in a gallery. How will Li’s sonic polish match with this proudly rough-hewn, ungainly yet powerful work? Finding out is just one reason to ride downtown and listen.

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Li Yundi plays at 8pm Tue at Bass Performance Hall, 555 Commerce St, FW. Tickets are $15-90. Call 817-335-9000.

 

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