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Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim

Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim
Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim
Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim

Billed as “Classical Music’s answer to K-Pop,” Yuncham Lin offers a debut recording of distinction. He won the Cliburn Competition in 2022 (at 18, the youngest ever winner); on July 29 he will make his Proms debut with Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto under Paavo Järvi (Prom 16).

These are highly imaginative responses to Chopins’ Etudes, held in fine sound. There is no doubting Lim’s superb technique, but he has imagination also: listen to the second of Op. 10 (the A-Minor):

… leading into the so-called “Tristesse”, the E-Major, Op. 10/3:

Lim’s performance of the C sharp-Minor Etude is remarkable. I haven’t heard a performance like this since “the two Pollini’s” (the classic DG recording and the Testament release; I append the DG release below):

Lim can offer the lyricism required, also: the tendril-like inner voices of Op. 10/5 speak volumes. His rhythmic sense is impeccable, too, which means rubato is telling and doesn’t need to be exaggerated:

Interestingly, it is this study (Op. 10/7) that Lim singles out especially in this interview:

The way he teases the melody in Op. 10/9 is also highly impressive. One aspect of Lim’s playing is that he doesn’t force inner melodies: Chopin’s deep roots in counterpoint ensured there are melodic strands held within “accompanimental” textures, but whereas some pianists seem to make a hobby fo finding them and banging them out, with Lim it is occasional and subtle.

Not everything is light and subtle, however. Here’s the so-called “Revolutionary” study, real powerhouse. Los impressive is the exact delivery of the left-hand semiquavers, with zero blurring:

Rarely has the A flat Etude which begins the Op. 25 set sounded as harmonious and beautiful as here, the inner arpeggios (notated in smaller notes – the equivalent of a smaller font size – by Chopin to show the relationship fo inner arpeggios to treble and bass activity). The YouTube video is currently at an impressive 7.4K likes, incidentally:

Op. 25/3 can sometimes appear a bit like a chattering typewriter (remember those?) but Lm performed it almost minus sustaining pedal but to fine effect:

How the melody sings in the central section of this Etude, too, the E-Minor; it is as if the melody flows a couple of Etudes later, in Op. 25’s C Sharp-Minor (No. 7). This is a variegated, wonderful set of Etudes precisely because of this variety:

It was with Liszt’s Transcendental Studies at the Cliburn that Lim achieved fame. Once can hear aspects of that transcendental technique in the “octave study” from Op. 25, No. 10 in B-Minor; and yet how it melts into the most exquisite melody for the central section (the melody here, again, in octaves, the challenge here for legato cantabile):

Op. 25/11 (A-Minor) begins with a seemingly harmless statement, single-line then harmonised …. before the explosion! I well remember hearing Jorge Bolet live in this, achieving perhaps the perfect opening. Lim isn’t far off:

The final torrent of arpeggios that is Op. 24/12 is brilliantly shaped as well as properly cumulative.

On of the most important Chopin releases of recent times. A pity perhaps there are no Nouvelles Etudes, but what power there is here. Lim’s own quote, reprinted on the disc’s inner caring (so, revealed once one removed the CD) is:

Within the Etudes, there are such things as the agony of the earth, the regrets of an older person love letters, longing, and freedom.

How true that is.

Here’s a live performance of Op. 10, coupled with Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons from the Concertgebouw in August 2023:

… and here’s a live performance by Lin of the Op. 25 Etudes from the Isangyun Competition, when the young chap was younger still, aged 15:

Here’s the Amazon link for the compact disc, and here’s for the LP. There’s also the Liszt Transcendental Studies from the Cliburn competition

Chopin: Études, Opp. 10 & 25 | Stream on IDAGIO
Listen to Chopin: Études, Opp. 10 & 25 by Yunchan Lim, Frédéric Chopin. Stream now on IDAGIO
Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim

Live from The Cliburn – Liszt: Transcendental Etudes | Stream on IDAGIO
Listen to Live from The Cliburn – Liszt: Transcendental Etudes by Yunchan Lim, Franz Liszt. Stream now on IDAGIO
Chopin Etudes from Yunchan Lim

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