“A true artist leaves something everlasting behind. Steinway allows the utmost freedom of expression, making the highest artistic fulfillment possible.”
Zhenni Li-Cohen’s riveting presence and passionate performances have brought audiences to their feet around the world. Hailed for her “torrents of voluptuous sound...Li impresses as an artist of tremendous conviction, who fascinates even as she provokes“ by Gramophone Magazine, “a thrillingly good pianist” by The New Yorker and for her "...big, gorgeous tone and a mesmerizing touch" by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms. Li-Cohen has performed in such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and WQXR’s Greene Space in New York, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Performing Arts Center, Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Museum, San Jose’s California Theater, the Helsinki Music Center in Finland, the Grieghallen in Norway and the Berliner Philharmonie in Germany.
Upcoming engagements include concerto appearances with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the National Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, the Fairbanks, Johns Hopkins, Bucks County, Lower Merion, University of Alberta and Knoxville Symphony Orchestras, and recitals in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Alaska, South Carolina, and Rhode Island. Deeply committed to the art of recording, Ms. Li-Cohen is passionate about memorializing lesser known works and sharing them with a greater audience as well as traversing the heights of the familiar giants of the repertoire. Fresh off the heels of her critically acclaimed debut album Mélancolie, she is currently working on three different recording projects with the Steinway & Sons label. In Une Lettre/One Letter/Ein Brief, she delves into the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz, a Ukrainian/Polish composer-pianist of the late 19th century whose life was constantly plagued by the horrors of war. Legends of the Phoenix Queen came about from Ms. Li-Cohen’s desire to reconnect with her musical heritage, exploring traditional and contemporary Chinese works inspired by folk songs, stories and historic instruments. In Beethoven’s Apotheosis, the great master’s final piano sonata is juxtaposed with the iconic “Hammerklavier” sonata and 32 Variations.
She is deeply indebted to her Ukrainian teacher, who helped her find freedom to express herself musically for the first time. During her college years at the Juilliard School where she earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in piano performance, she spent summers in France working with Ginette Gaubert, who directly inherited the French tradition from Ravel through Perlemuter. This led to a great love and appreciation for French music, particularly that of Claude Debussy, whose Préludes were eventually the subject of her dissertation. After further studies through Artist Diploma at Yale School of Music, she completed her Doctoral degree at McGill University in Montréal and began concertizing in earnest, earning worldwide recognition as the winner of the 2017 New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition, Astral Artist’s 2016 National Auditions and the Grieg International Competition in Norway. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta and her performances have been broadcast internationally on Canada National CBC Radio, Chicago’s WFMT Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio, New York’s WQXR, Norwegian National Radio: NPK P2/ NPK Klassisk, Philadelphia’s WWFM and WRTI, Texas Public Radio, and West Virginia’s WVTF.
In addition to her solo career, Ms. Li-Cohen is a deeply devoted chamber musician. She has collaborated with members of the Aeolus, Borromeo, Jasper, Hugo Wolf, and New Orford quartets and has performed at numerous chamber music festivals including Classical Bridge, Fontainebleau Festival, Kneisel Hall, Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. Her passion for chamber music led her to co-found ”Fishin' in C Chamber Music Series”, a diverse chamber concert series in Philadelphia with the aim of bringing music to underserved areas and “Opus 71 Concerts”, a multimedia concert series near New York’s Lincoln Center.
She is immensely grateful to be able to count among her artistic influences many incredible teachers and mentors, including Peter Frankl, Richard Goode, Joseph Kalichstein, Stéphane Lemelin, Seymour Lipkin, Robert McDonald, Mark Salman, Craig Sheppard, and Vera Wilson. In her spare time, she enjoys learning jazz and new languages, looking forward to becoming pentalingual, traveling and meeting people of different cultures.
Zhenni Li-Cohen is a Steinway Artist.
A Letter Sergei Bortkiewicz Solo Piano Works
On May 5, 2023 Steinway & Sons releases A Letter | Une Lettre | Ein Brief, a survey of piano works of the Ukrainian composer Sergei Bortkiewicz (also spelled Serhiy Bortkevych). The album (STNS 30129) is performed by Zhenni Li-Cohen, whose riveting presence and passionate performances have brought audiences to their feet around the world.
After first hearing the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz, Zhenni Li-Cohen's reaction was immediate and profound: She felt like she had found her calling to play his music, and to give the world an opportunity to discover his piano works.
In the album's liner notes, Matthew Cohen writes that Bortkiewicz’s life was filled with misfortune. He was constantly fleeing unrest and turmoil due to war; he was deported from his home in Berlin at the onset of World War I, then forced to flee his family estate first at the start of the Russian Revolution, then again in 1920 after his home of Kharkov was taken for a second time by the Red Army, arriving safe but penniless in Constantinople. His final exodus came in 1933, when he was again deported from Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. His misfortunes did not end here; after the war, his wife was diagnosed with manic depression in 1949 due to the traumatic ordeals they were subjected to. It is thus rather remarkable that he managed to concertize extensively and composed a very large body of works including symphonies, concerti, chamber music, an opera, and quite a number of works for solo piano. Perhaps even more surprising is that his music displays very little trace of the sturm und drang that characterized much of his life, but is rather warm, generous, and overflowing with sentimentality and sweeping, romantic lyricism.
Steinway & Sons releases a new album from Zhenni Li, the 2017 winner of multiple coveted awards, including the Grieg International Competition in Norway and the New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition.
Mélancholie features works by Schumann, Bartók and Lourié played by, according to pianist and music critic David Dubal, “a magnetic pianist—with fire and poetry”.
Arthur-Vincent Lourié, featured on the first five tracks of Li’s album, “was a key figure among Russian composers involved in the Futurist movement, which largely drew inspiration from or paid homage to machines. Lourié’s earliest piano pieces, however, reflect the teenage composer’s eager assimilation of late Russian Romanticism, particularly the 5 Préludes Fragiles,” according to Jed Distler in the liner notes for Mélancholie.
"Robert Schumann’s F-sharp Minor Sonata counts among his most personal and idiosyncratic compositions, not the least in how he first titled it for publication: ‘Pianoforte Sonata, Dedicated to Clara, by Florestan and Eusebius, Op. 11.’ Listeners accustomed to the percussive tautness of Bartók’s works with piano from the late 1920s on will find a looser, more voluble keyboard approach in his earlier Elegies Op. 8b.”