The Korea Herald


At 30, Lim seeks change, balance

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 5, 2014 - 19:50

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Lim Dong-hyek. (Credia) Lim Dong-hyek. (Credia)

Lim Dong-hyek was called a “prodigy pianist” in his teen years, an “idol star in classical music” and a “Chopin specialist” in his 20s. He wouldn’t have chosen any of these labels, if he’d had a choice.

Now turning 30, Lim wants to show his true colors as a pianist, nothing more and nothing less.

“People tend to think of me as a poser who boasts flamboyant techniques and transcription skills, but I am not,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday from New York.

“I like to play pieces that are expressive and emotionally deep ― a byproduct of studying 10 years in Russia. But technique is not what I am into,” he said.

With a boyish look and slender physique on top of an impressive tally of international accolades, the pianist has been hailed here as an icon of classical music. He has the cult following of a rock star, too.

But Lim has mixed feelings about his early success. He often feels that his image speaks louder than his piano playing.

“It may sound too abstract, but I want to be judged by my music.”

Preparing for an upcoming recital tour of South Korea ― Lim has been playing in his home country every two years since his solo debut in 2004 ― he is toiling over the masterpieces of Beethoven and Schubert.

The program is a departure from his past repertoires, which have typically featured romantic and exuberant works by composers such as Chopin, Prokofiev and Ravel.

“I feel a growing urge these days to test myself,” he explained. “It’s about finding a balance and becoming an all-around player.”

Beethoven, in particular, is a challenge.

“If I spend, let’s say, 200 hours practicing Schubert to reach the level I am satisfied with for the stage, Beethoven is, for me, a 2,000-hour effort,” he said.

It is not because Beethoven is particularly difficult for him to play, but because of the stage fright he constantly struggles with.

“I fear that I might just mess up on stage” the great pieces which should be played in a more restrained and cogent way. He has a very strict standard when it comes to playing Beethoven, he added.

“But I can’t go on playing only what I am good at.”

Trying a new repertoire and building his capacity as a pianist is going to be a long journey ― challenging but rewarding. “I don’t know whether it will take 10 years or 20 years. But I will always try, always question myself along the way,” he said.

In the upcoming recital, Lim will present a full program that includes Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” from the “Suite Bergamasque”; Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major, BWV 564; Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 4 (“Moonlight”); and Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959.

He will perform in Jeonju on Feb. 11; Nowon on Feb. 14; Yangsan on Feb. 15; Seoul on Feb. 18; Gwacheon on Feb. 20; Gimhae on Feb. 21; Chuncheon on Feb. 22 and Gwangju on Feb. 23.

The Seoul concert will take place at the Seoul Arts Center. Ticket starts at 30,000 won. For more information, call 1577-1555 or (02) 580-1300.

By Lee Sun-young (