Zhenni Li

Zhenni Li

Zhenni Li-Cohen’s passionate performances and riveting presence have brought audiences to their feet around the world. Gramophone Magazine hailed her for her “torrents of voluptuous sound…” noting further that she “impresses as an artist of tremendous conviction, who fascinates even as she provokes.” The New Yorker praised her as “a thrillingly good pianist” and the Philadelphia Inquirer was taken with her “…big, gorgeous tone and mesmerizing touch.” Ms. Li-Cohen has performed in such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, WQXR’s Greene Space in New York, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Performing Arts Center, the Helsinki Music Centre in Finland, the Grieghallen in Norway, and the Berliner Philharmonie in Germany.

Her difficult early years did not portend a remarkable career. After a year of study with her childhood teacher, she was rejected for lack of talent at the ripe old age of seven years. Intuiting her passion and promise, her father took charge of her music education, learning the piano himself in the process. Eventually, at age eleven, she moved away from home to continue her piano studies while her parents remained behind, working to support her education. Alone in her rental apartment, she spent her free time expressing her emotions through the piano and reading books endlessly. Music was her only refuge, and her prowess soared, until at age sixteen, she emigrated to the United States and was accepted to study at the Juilliard School shortly thereafter, earning Bachelors and Masters degrees in piano performance. She spent her summers in France, leading 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 at Yale University, she pursued her Doctoral degree at McGill University in Montreal and began concertizing in earnest, earning worldwide recognition as the winner of Astral Artist’s National Auditions, the New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition, the Grieg International Competition in Norway, and the unanimous 1st Prize at the Concours Musical de France. She released her critically acclaimed CD recording debut “Mélancholie” on the Steinway & Sons label and has appeared in recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., New York’s Steinway Hall, Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society, and in the Morgan Library as a guest artist for the New York Philharmonic Symposium on Stravinsky with conductor Valery Gergiev. As a soloist, she appeared with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, and the Fairbanks, Knoxville, Bucks County, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia among others. 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, she 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, [email protected], and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. Her passion for chamber music led her to co-found “The Last Soirée”, a multi-genre performing arts series which launched in New York in 2018, and ”Fishin’ in C Chamber Music Series.” a diverse chamber concert series in Philadelphia with the aim of bringing music to underserved areas. 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, and Craig Sheppard, and Vera Wilson.

In her spare time, she enjoys learning new languages, looking forward to becoming pentalingual, and traveling and meeting people of different cultures. Ms. Li-Cohen now lives in Manhattan with her husband and two cats, Monkey and Mumu.
Zhenni Li is a Steinway Artist.

Newsletter Signup

Want to stay in touch with what’s going on with the Symphony? Sign up for monthly newsletter.