Friday 24 June 2022

EPHEMORY / CHUREN LI, Piano / Review


Churen Li, Piano

Cross Ration Entertainment

CRE-A086 / TT: 18’11”


Record collectors of a certain age demographic might remember the 7-inch 45-rpm vinyl record, with one or two short tracks per side, playing for durations of less than twenty minutes. Music labels would record singers, pianists and violinists in arias and short encore pieces, to be released at low cost to music lovers particularly young people. Singaporean pianist Churen Li’s debut CD resembles one of these “singles” or EP (extended play) records, as it comprises just five short tracks, but what pleasure these provide.


A graduate of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Li also received further degrees from Yale and Cambridge Universities. She is a serious concert pianist, with repertoire ranging from the Baroque,  Beethoven, Rachmaninov to George Crumb, also involving extended keyboard techniques. As a composer, her style is however a comfortable cross between classical and pop, encompassing improvisation, minimalism and New Age styles often encountered in film music.    


Prelude after Bach is based on the first movement from J.S.Bach’s Cello Suite No.2, serving as a prelude to Li’s Llamas Land, an original waltz fantasy inspired by the serene green space in Cambridge called Lammas Land. Fond recollections and past passions inform the album’s title Ephemory, a portmanteau of ephemeral and memory. In Butterfly, one of her earliest compositions from ten years ago, Li inverts the opening theme of Ravel’s Sonatine as its opening gambit.


Andante cantabile is a meditation on the slow movement from Schumann’s Piano Quartet (Op.47), which works the Disney movie tune Alice in Wonderland as envisioned by Bill Evans into the mix. For Fantasy after Mozart, the Siciliano slow movement from Mozart Piano Concerto No.23 begins in G minor and undergoes several transpositions. Chopin’s E minor Prelude (Op.28 No.4) is incorporated before homing on the “rightful” key of F sharp minor. The serendipitous juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated melodies make these works all the more interesting.


All the performances are vividly recorded, and the slick packaging resembles a pop or crossover album. Churen Li has undoubtedly more inventive ideas up her sleeves, and one looks forward to her next CD, hopefully to be a long-playing one.

Watch a performance of Llamas Land by Churen Li at the Singapore International Piano Festival 2021:

Llamas' Land by Churen Li | Singapore International Piano Festival - YouTube

This recording is on sale at Churen's concert with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on 16 July 2022 at Esplanade Concert Hall. Tickets are available at:

Han-Na Chang and Churen Li – Beethoven and Grieg | Singapore Symphony Orchestra (

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