MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 -1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV988 (1741) [49:34]
Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for violin BWV1004 (ca 1720) (arr. Busoni) [16:01]
DongHyek Lim (piano)
rec. 1-3 April 2008, Henry Wood Hall, London
EMI CLASSICS 2159782 [65:35]
Experience Classicsonline

With no information about DongHyek Lim in the booklet for this release, I was obliged to do a quick online search to find out that he would have been a youthful 23 years of age when this recording was made. Lim made headlines by refusing to accept 3rd prize at the 2003 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels. He has also been winner and highly placed at numerous other competitions, and now has a glittering concert and recording career. At 21, he was the youngest pianist ever to sign a recording contract with EMI Classics. After a ‘Martha Argerich Presents’ CD and a recording which includes the Chopin Sonata in B minor, this is his third album for EMI.
To sum up, I would say that this is indeed very much a ‘young person’s’ Goldberg Variations. I don’t mean this in a negative way, or to imply that Lim’s playing is immature or lacking in some essential aspects. When you hear the gentler variations, such as Variation 13, or 15, you can hear a kind of slinky expression, lithe and flexible, which teases some gorgeous shapes from the music that you probably won’t have heard in quite this way before. It is with the livelier variations that the full athletic pianism of DongHyek Lim is unleashed. Such variations as 12, 14 and so on will blow your socks off, but in the nicest way. Lim’s touch is powerful, but his sound doesn’t dig you in the ribs aggressively like some pianists. What I like about his phrasing and emphases is that there is always somewhere from which they grow, and a direction in which they move. Rather than appearing as clunky, isolated accents, Lim’s actions are almost invariably shaped with elegant structure and form, even when all technical hell is breaking loose. He will choose slower than usual tempi on occasion, such as Variation 19, which brings out the inner voices with great expression and panache. Such variations use the sustaining power of the concert grand piano to full advantage. One of the few to be truly extended is the wonderful Variation 25, which at 5:39 is the longest of the entire set, and very beautiful it is too. Several variations drive on with more urgency than is often encountered, Variation 27 and numerous others coming in at under a minute. These never lose a sense of absolute control however, and the only regret with some is the lack of a repeat – that sense of Bach’s proportions being lost in a miniature which the mind has too little time to take in properly. Clarity of voicing is another strong aspect of Lim’s playing, something you can convince yourself of just by playing the brief magic of Variation 24, whose crossing lines are as complex as the rails at Crewe junction, and just as accurately placed.       
Lim’s Goldberg Variations come in at under 50 minutes, which is a relatively brief traversal of this great masterpiece. The reason for this is not massive haste, but non-observation of repeats. Sergey Schepkin takes just under 72 minutes in his recording, which in almost complete opposition to Lim uses all the repeats. Neither interpretation is given to Gould-like extremes of tempo, and both are very approachable. With a well-known piece such as this, one would imagine that relating a new recording to at least one other would be fairly straightforward, but each time I brought out the old favourites I found it harder to quantify Lim in terms of alliances. His softer movements sometimes have a little of that feel from the older Decca recording by Andras Schiff, and, like Glenn Gould, you do hear some distant vocalisations in the background of some of these variations. I took to thinking there might be some youthful connection with the younger Claudio Arrau, whose 1941 recording has been made available on RCA, but that didn’t work at all. Something of Sergey Schepkin’s fire and attack can be found with Lim, but without that difficult to define but clearly more hard-edged Russianness. Lim is more feminine, his fireworks more sparkling and transparent, and less block-like in comparison. In other words, if you have the idea of this being ‘oh no, not another Goldberg Variations’ then you need to think again. Arriving at the lyrical melodic forms of the penultimate Quodlibet the sense of integration is made complete. If anything this is more so than with the final Aria which stands apart a little from the rest; seeming more like a coda than a resolution. I for one have been highly impressed by Lim’s richness of invention and individual  approach, somehow achieved without being in any way unnecessarily quirky or eccentric.
As a ‘filler’ DongHyek Lim gives us the Chaconne from the violin Partita in D minor BWV 1004, as famously arranged for the piano by Ferruccio Busoni. Quite correctly, Lim does not play this as Bach, but gives us the full romantic works. Building sonorities with triumphantly splendid grandeur, this is not only a technical marvel, but an overwhelming musical experience which makes one glad to be alive. Lim never sounds anything like the proverbial ‘bull in a china shop’ which can be the result with some players, but the contrast between this and the Goldberg Variations could hardly be greater. Some of the effects Lim creates in this music are quite magical, and you realise how sensitive his pedalling is as well as having all that touch at the keyboard. I can’t say I’ve been a great collector of versions of this piece, but the one I’ve hung onto longest is Shura Cherkassky’s live 80th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Comparing these two is like looking through two different ends of a telescope, but what I appreciate in both is a highly personal approach to colour, sonority and shape. Cherkassky is almost wilfully individualistic, and I would never hold this particular performance up as in any way definitive, but at a little over 16 minutes both young and old masters agree that it’s better to let the music flow and move on rather than to linger over so many precious moments. Coming back to the telescope analogy, Lim has a way of magnifying the music into something truly towering and monumental, without losing the sense of delicacy and contrast which is essential for keeping the whole thing together.
EMI’s sound for this disc is excellent in my opinion. The piano seems almost too distant to start with, but the sheer width of dynamic in Lim’s playing make the microphone placement and balancing nothing less than entirely logical. The power in the Bach/Busoni is conveyed with a magnificent sense of scale and impact, and with a delicious warmth in the bass which is thankfully not over-emphasised. The delicate touch and intimacy in this, and those gentler variations of BWV988 draw you in and leave you wanting more. If I encounter no more piano CDs on my desert island this year, I’ll be happy with just this one.
Dominy Clements
see also review by Jonathan Woolf (a very different opinion)


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.