Brilliant Chinese pianist Yundi (Li Yundi), youngest winner of the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2000, had a devastating evening according to Korean music critic Ilbum Chang  after attending his October 30th concert at the Seoul Arts Center. Yundi got lost when playing Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra  conducted by David Robertson.

The performance ground to a halt as soloist and conductor consulted with each other and then got back on track to finish the Concerto.

Some disappointed fans requested refunds.

A media and Facebook frenzy ensued.

Some comments indicated that it is reassuring to know that pianists such as Vladimir Horowitz had memory slips. Others observed that performers are human and humans are not perfect.

On his website, Li issued the following statement:

“We apologize for our mistakes in the Seoul concert and would like to issue a sincere apology to our fans and friends and thank the conductor and the orchestra for their support and forgiveness. As a pianist, I know that no matter what, my performance on stage must be perfect, any kind of explanation is insufficient. Thank you for your comments.”


Click the link below to hear Yundi perform La Campanella by Franz Liszt.


*What is a “perfect” performance?

*How does knowing Horowitz had a memory slip make other performers feel better?

*Does “being human” avoid feeling ashamed and humiliated?

*Is music performance a high risk activity?

*Why do very few university music programs offer courses in the psychology of performance despite data that show music students can be at risk for anxiety and depression given the competitive and visible nature of their profession, the long developmental trajectory that precedes entering a music school for advanced instruction, the prevalence of debilitating stage fright, and high rates of  unemployment and underemployment?

*Why are ongoing fundraising efforts in many music schools typically dedicated to constructing buildings instead of providing classes and emotional support services for constructive lives?

*Why is there a lack of formal and interdisciplinary relationships between music schools and mental health professionals in the community?

* Do you think Li Yundi should have apologized?

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