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[Herald Review] Lim Yunchan electrifies with 'Pictures at an exhibition'

By Park Ga-young

Published : June 9, 2024 - 15:06

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Pianist Lim Yunchan performs at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul, Friday. (MOC Production) Pianist Lim Yunchan performs at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul, Friday. (MOC Production)

Kicking off his much-anticipated recital tour in South Korea, pianist Lim Yunchan on Friday dispersed any concerns about his change in repertoire only about six weeks ago. He was originally supposed to perform Chopin’s Etudes, from his debut album with Decca, along with Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words in E major, Op. 19-1, and Songs Without Words in D major, Op. 85-4, followed by Tchaikovsky's "The Seasons," Op. 37b.

With the release of the album in April, many of his fans anticipated listening to a live performance.

Replacing Chopin’s Etudes, Lim decided to add “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a suite of 10 pieces composed by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874 in memory of his friend, Russian artist Viktor Hartmann. Mussorgsky captures the essence of Hartmann's art, transforming the visual art form into a musical narrative.

The suite was initially written for solo piano, but became widely known through Maurice Ravel's orchestration.

In an announcement prior to the concert, his production company MOC said he would be performing Vladimir Horowitz’s arrangement of "Pictures at an Exhibition."

"Pictures at an Exhibition" followed a 20-minute intermission after meticulously delivering not only 12 months through “The Season,” but also joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure through his expressive performance.

Pianist Lim Yunchan performs during his recital at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul, Friday. (MOC Production) Pianist Lim Yunchan performs during his recital at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul, Friday. (MOC Production)

Instead of strictly following Horowitz’s famous arrangement, Lim introduced his own interpretations of "Pictures at an Exhibition," evoking a strong response from the audience, who remained utterly silent throughout the recital, with tears flowing as the piece reached its later parts.

His finger movements were dazzling while his left foot, stomping as if it were part of the music, added to the intensity.

Lim's performance certainly added a new dimension to the piece, prompting many to hope for a recording of the remarkable performance. It also served as a reminder of the young pianist's careful attention to his choices and presentation, demonstrating his responsibility and dedication to delivering quality performances to his audience.

When the performance ended, the more than 2,000 spectators who filled the Lotte Concert Hall -- including his teacher Sohn Min-soo -- erupted into applause and loud cheers, reaching a level of enthusiasm more typically found at a K-pop idol concert.

For the encore, the youngest winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition played Tchaikovsky’s Moment Lyrique, TH 149. As he signaled for the second encore, a thunderous roar erupted from the audience, to which he responded by performing Liszt’s Liebestraum, S.541 No. 3.

Lim proceeded with the second concert of his recital in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, Sunday. He is set to next perform in Daegu on Wednesday, Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, Saturday, Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, on June 17, and Gwangju on June 19.

The series concludes back in the capital with a final recital at the Seoul Arts Center on June 22.

Pianist Lim Yunchan greets the audience after the first performance of his recital tour Friday at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul. (MOC Production) Pianist Lim Yunchan greets the audience after the first performance of his recital tour Friday at Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, Seoul. (MOC Production)