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Yundi makes Ravinia festival debut / Chicago Classical Review

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It was a starry Sunday at the Ravinia Festival's Martin Theatre. In the afternoon, celebrated pianist Yundi took the stage to present a rich all-Romantic program, followed by an appearance by soprano Dawn Upshaw with The Knights, a New York-based chamber orchestra.

Though both Upshaw and the Knights are familiar faces at Ravinia, Sunday's recital marked Yundi's festival debut. The 32-year-old pianist-a first prize winner in the 2000 Chopin International Piano Competition-is a celebrity in his native China, where he enjoys the kind of attention lavished on pop musicians and movie stars in the states. The Martin Theatre was filled to capacity for Sunday's recital, with more than half of the seats filled by his Chinese-American fans.

Even with the heavy advance anticipation, hearing Yundi perform felt like a fresh revelation. He approached each piece with a taut sense of inner drama, knowing that one doesn't need soap-opera bathos to underscore the tumult already present in the score.

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