Mike Cheng-Yu Lee is one of a new generation of pianists performing on period pianos that span the early-18th to the 20th centuries. His performances have garnered attention for the fresh perspectives they bring to familiar repertoire. For his debut recital in Australia he received a rare five-star review in Limelight Magazine: “Try as one might, it was hard to avoid cliché responses like ‘stunning’, even ‘electrifying’. I don’t think I have heard a Mozart recital quite like this. I heard things in Mozart’s music I had never thought possible and certainly had never encountered before.”
Awarded Second and Audience prizes at the inaugural Westfield International Fortepiano Competition by a jury that included the late Christopher Hogwood and Robert Levin, Mike regularly collaborates with both historical and modern performers and ensembles. His collaborators have included Michael Tilson Thomas, musicians from the Juilliard, Formosa, and Aizuri quartets, Cynthia Roberts, and more recently Francisco Fullana (recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant), Clancy Newman (winner of the Walter W. Naumburg International Competition), among others.
Experienced at coaching period and modern performers alike, Mike is frequently invited to teach and perform at some of the most prestigious music schools and institutions around the world. Recent engagements include the Fryderyk Chopin Institute (Warsaw) as artist-faculty at its 2023 Masterclasses, the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC) as faculty at its 2023 Beethoven Academy, and the Curtis Institute, Royal Academy of Music, the New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, University of Southern California, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, etc. He is currently collaborating with ToneBase – the leading online learning platform – to produce a series of pedagogical videos that introduce period pianos and their performing practices to its more than 8000 global subscribers.
In recent years, Mike has assumed the directorship and management of important instrument collections. In 2017-19 he was Director of the Australian National University Keyboard Institute, overseeing the maintenance, curricular application, and outreach efforts of the southern hemisphere's largest historical piano collection. From 2020-23 he was Artist-in-Residence at the Cornell Center for Historical Keyboards where he divided his work between performance, teaching, and curatorship. In addition to developing collaborative artistic and educational programs within a research-university environment, Mike was Artistic Director of the first Cornell-Westfield Forte/Piano Summer Academy, taught into Cornell's DMA program, and curated the center's collection. Over the years he has had the privilege to work privately with instrument builders such as Rodney Regier, Paul McNulty, Thomas and Barbara Wolf.
As a performer-scholar, Mike's research interests lie at the intersection between performance practice, music theory and analysis, and organology. In 2015-17 he was Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University–Bloomington. To date, his published writings have encompassed aspects of historical tempo, form, and meter in Schubert (Music Theory Online), autograph studies, hermeneutics, and embodiment in the music of Chopin (19th-Century Music). Mike has additionally contributed articles to 18th-Century Music and Early Music America Magazine.
A graduate of the New England Conservatory and Yale School of Music, Mike holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Cornell University with a dissertation that was awarded the Department of Music's Donald J. Grout Memorial Dissertation Prize. His teachers include Malcolm Bilson, Boris Berman, Michael Friedmann, and the Haydn scholar James Webster. He is currently Assistant Professor (visiting) at the Eastman School of Music.