UK debut of the young South Korean pianist
Dong-Hyek Lim (born 1984) was an overwhelming
and unforgettable experience. Here, for once,
a pianist gave us an evening not in the by
now too familiar manner of acrobatic overexposure
killing the piano and the music at the same
time, but of incredible musical insight, breathtaking
maturity and a magical range of instrumental
colours. He mirrored all the great pianists
of the past - from Arthur Schnabel to Tatiana
Nikolayeva - who have built the basis for
the once famous Wigmore Hall tradition of
excellence. Simultaneously, his recital assured
the audience that this tradition is still
alive and fresh, even if sadly only occasionally.
early studies at the National Conservatory
in Seoul he became a student at the Moscow
Central Music School at the age of 10, from
where he graduated in 1998. He continued his
studies at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory
with Lev Naumov and is currently a student
of Arie Vardi at the Hochschule für Musik
in Hannover. Lim has won numerous prestigious
competitions and has already appeared with
many famous orchestras and at piano festivals
in Switzerland, Germany, Poland and France.
In his native South Korea he has acquired
the status of a pop star leading to a fan
club of more than seventeen thousand members.
Last year he made headlines by refusing to
accept the 3rd prize in the Queen Elisabeth
International Music Competition in Brussels.
wondered if this young pianist was trying
to foster his career through arrogance. But
nothing could be further from the truth. If
this were the case, Lim would have chosen
a repertoire of extreme virtuoso and not too
well known pieces for this important debut.
Instead he played works every piano enthusiast
is familiar with, thereby risking comparison
with many famous interpretations on disc.
His appearance on the platform showed neither
vanity nor arrogance; unpretentious he went
to the grand and started playing without any
delay and without the slightest mannerism.
Chopinīs Three Mazurka, Op.59 and his
Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor, op.58
formed the first half. I have not heard Chopin
played live with such feeling for belcanto
in years. Limīs phrasing and breathing combined
with an effortless technique, lightness and
inner musicality. His playing never produced
a single harsh tone; instead we had constant
beauty, changing his intonation where necessary
and never loosing sight of the overall view.
It was reminiscent of Horovitz. One cannot
learn to play Chopin this way one must be
born with it.
the interval Lim played Schubertīs all too
well known Four Impromptus, Op.90, D.899.
He made me listen afresh discovering again
many nuances and details, which so often get
lost. Despite never loosing sight of the whole
arch of Schubertīs different intentions for
each of these four musical diamonds Lim captivated
the audience with his own magical heartbeat
and with a simplicity that held ones breath.
He finished with Ravelīs masterpiece La
Valse, composed in 1920 as an apotheosis
of the Viennese waltz, but in fact a diabolical
reminder that this work followed the First
World War, a world-changing event. Here, Lim
pulled out all the stops in his use of pianistic
colours as he created a true picture of the
demonic nature of this ingenious piece. This
young pianist is not only a great musician
true to the composer, but also a deeply creative
artist with a fascinating sense for the beauty
gave four very different encores, which again
proved this point: a movement by Bach (possibly
in an arrangement by Wilhelm Kempff), an Etude
by Scriabin, one movement from Tchaikovskyīs
The Seasons and finally Clementi, played
like the most incredible string of endless
pearls. Limīs recital gave me the hope that
not all is lost. It coincided with the release
of his second CD for EMI, entirely devoted
to Chopin and a must for every Chopin fan,
while his first CD for the EMI series `Martha
Argerich Presentsī contains works by Chopin,
Schubert and Ravel.