HomeMusicA 19-Yr-Outdated Pianist Electrifies Audiences. But He’s Unimpressed.

A 19-Yr-Outdated Pianist Electrifies Audiences. But He’s Unimpressed.

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After six hours of sleep and a breakfast of milk and curry rice, Yunchan Lim, the South Korean pianist, was in a rehearsal studio at Lincoln Center on Tuesday morning working by way of a treacherous passage of Rachmaninoff.

“A bit of bit sooner,” Lim, in a black sweatshirt and sneakers, stated casually to the conductor, James Gaffigan, as they ready for Lim’s New York Philharmonic debut this week. Gaffigan laughed.

“Usually pianists need the other!” the conductor stated.

Lim — shy, soft-spoken and bookish — shocked the music world final 12 months when, at 18, he became the youngest winner within the historical past of the celebrated Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas. His victory made him a direct sensation; a video of his efficiency of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 within the finals has been seen greater than 11 million times on YouTube. (He will play that piece with the Philharmonic this week, underneath Gaffigan’s baton.)

Still a school sophomore, Lim has impressed a religious following within the United States, Europe and Asia. He has develop into a logo of delight in South Korea, the place he has been described as classical music’s reply to Ok-pop. Like a pop star, his face has been printed on T-shirts.

“He’s a musician method past his years,” stated the conductor Marin Alsop, who headed the Cliburn jury and led the Rachmaninoff efficiency. “Technically, he’s phenomenal, and the colours and dynamics are phenomenal. He’s extremely musical and looks as if a really previous soul. It’s actually fairly one thing.”

But Lim is uneasy with the eye. He doesn’t imagine he has any musical expertise, he says, and could be content material to spend his life alone within the mountains enjoying piano all day. (He limits his use of social media, he says, as a result of he believes it’s corrosive to creativity and since he needs to stay as a lot as potential as his favourite composers did.)

“A well-known performer and an earnest performer — a real artist — are two various things,” he stated in an interview this week on the Steinway manufacturing facility in Queens, the place he was looking for a piano.

Born in Siheung, a suburb of Seoul, Lim had a childhood stuffed with soccer, baseball and music. He started finding out the piano at 7, when his dad and mom enrolled him in a neighborhood music academy. He was drawn to the piano, he stated, as a result of he had grown up listening to Chopin and Liszt on recordings that his mom had bought when she was pregnant. He was additionally taken by the majesty of the instrument.

“The grand piano regarded shiny and most spectacular,” he stated.

At 13, he enrolled in a prep faculty at Korean National University of Arts in Seoul. His instructor, the pianist Minsoo Sohn, was impressed by the sensitivity of his interpretations.

“At first he was a little bit bit cautious, however I instantly seen that he was an enormous expertise,” he stated. “He’s very humble, a pupil of the rating and he isn’t over expressive.”

Sohn initially steered his pupil away from competitions, frightened in regards to the strain. But when the pandemic delayed the Cliburn competitors, which is held each 4 years, making it potential for Lim to qualify, Sohn advised he give it a strive, telling him to deal with it as a efficiency, not a contest.

“I assumed the world wanted to take heed to what Yunchan may play in his teenage years,” Sohn stated.

When Lim arrived in Fort Worth for the competition, which passed off over 17 days, he stated he felt the spirit of Van Cliburn, the eminent pianist for whom the competition is known as.

Lim typically practiced as a lot as 20 hours a day, he stated, sending recordings to Sohn, who was in South Korea, for steering. He existed on a food plan of Korean noodles and stews ready by his mom, who had accompanied him, in addition to midnight snacks of toasted English muffins with butter and strawberry jam made by his host household.

“I knew it was like Russian roulette,” he stated of the competitors. “It may end up nicely, or you might find yourself shooting your self within the head. It was lots of stress.”

As he ready to stroll onstage to play the Rachmaninoff concerto, he stated he considered Carl Sagan’s thought of Earth as only a “pale blue dot” within the universe.

“When the stage doorways open and the viewers applauds, once I nervously sit down on the piano and press the primary key, that second is just like the Big Bang for me,” he stated. “I’m nervous, however the picture of the pale blue dot offers me braveness. I simply consider the second as one thing occurring in that small little speck.”

His Rachmaninoff gained ovations, however he was dissatisfied with the efficiency, believing that he achieved solely about 30 p.c of what he had hoped to perform. Since the competitors, he stated he had been capable of watch simply the primary three minutes of the YouTube video earlier than rising dispirited.

When he returned to South Korea after the Cliburn, he stated he was unchanged. “I simply wish to say that there’s nothing totally different with me and my piano expertise earlier than and after the win,” he said at a news convention together with his instructor.

Lim, who continues to be enrolled at Korean National University of Arts, plans to switch this fall to the New England Conservatory, in Boston, the place Sohn now teaches.

As a pupil, his worldwide profession has taken off, with a recital at Wigmore Hall in London in January and an look with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in February. This summer season, he’ll reunite with Alsop to carry out the Rachmaninoff concerto on the Bravo! Vail pageant in Colorado and the Ravinia Festival in Illinois. Next 12 months, he’ll make his Carnegie Hall debut with an all-Chopin program.

The New York Philharmonic booked him quickly after Deborah Borda, its president and chief government, noticed YouTube movies of his performances on the Cliburn — a Beethoven concerto in addition to the Rachmaninoff.

“I used to be blown away by how fluent he was in each types,” Borda stated. “He was simply sensible.”

Ahead of his debut in New York, Lim has been fine-tuning his interpretation of the Rachmaninoff. In getting ready the concerto’s somber opening notes, he stated, he imagines the “angel of demise” or cloaked figures singing a Gregorian chant, following his instructor’s recommendation.

This efficiency is very significant, he stated. On his commute to and from center faculty, he usually performed a 1978 recording of the Rachmaninoff concerto by Vladimir Horowitz and the Philharmonic. He stated he had listened to the recording at the least 1,000 times.

Lim stated he felt nervous to observe within the footsteps of Horowitz, one in all his idols, and that he would all the time contemplate himself a pupil, irrespective of how profitable his profession is perhaps. He stated artists shouldn’t be judged by the variety of YouTube views they obtained, however by the authenticity of their work.

“It’s a bit onerous to outline myself as an artist,” he stated. “I’m just like the universe earlier than the Big Bang. I’m nonetheless within the studying part.”

“I’d prefer to be a musician with infinite potentialities,” he added, “identical to the universe.”

Jin Yu Young contributed analysis from Seoul.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com

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