Yunchan Lim has no plans to conform after Van Cliburn International Piano Competition win

Pianist Yunchan Lim speaks during a press conference held on Monday at Kumho Art Hall Yonsei in Seodaemun District for his new album "Beethoven, Isang Yun, Barber" released under Deutsche Grammophon. [NEWS1]

Pianist Yunchan Lim released his first Deutsche Grammophon album on Monday after his big win at the 17th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June.

He could’ve released a solo album that consists of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concert No. 3 in D Minor, op. 30 — the final piece Lim performed at the competition that also earned him a gold medal and a long, standing ovation from the judges.

Instead, the 18-year-old pianist decided to release a live recording of the concert he did with the Gwangju Symphony Orchestra at Tongyeong Concert Hall in October.

The album consists of Beethoven’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E flat major ‘Emperor’ op. 73,” and internationally celebrated Korean-German composer Isang Yun’s “Exemplum in Memoriam Kwangju.” It also has Federico Mompou’s “Jeunes filles au jardin No. 5 from ‘Scenes d’enfants Calme,’” which he played as an encore during the concert.

Lim met with local reporters on Monday at the Kumho Art Hall Yonsei for the second time since his big win in June, this time to discuss his new album and an upcoming recital. Lim, who seemed to have become a lot more comfortable before the press and cameras, made it clear that he’s ready to break the mold.

“I purposely played Monpou’s piece as an encore because usually, there’s some sort of an unspoken repertoire among pianists. After Bach’s ‘Emperor,’ nearly every time by nearly all the pianists, the same piece gets played as an encore piece,” said Lim. “I wanted to play something unexpected, so I picked Monpou, a composer and a pianist whom I greatly admire. I wanted to introduce him to the listeners and I was pretty sure nobody played his piece as an encore after ‘Emperor.’”

Pianist Lim, right, and conductor Hong Seok-won of the Gwangju Symphony Orchestra shake hands during a press conference held on Monday. [NEWS1]

Lim also said he could’ve released a solo album, but wanted to release a live recording with a full orchestra because it means the ambiance of that moment is captured.

“The energy and the spirit from the orchestra members and maestro Hong Seok-won were so great that I wanted to make it into a recording,” said Lim. “I listen to so many recordings of other artists and I find myself enjoying the live orchestral versions more than studio albums. It’s more vibrant and more colorful if you know what I mean. The concert last month at the Tongyeong Concert Hall was great and we had such a great audience so being able to have that ambiance as a record is very valuable for me. I would not have been able to produce such a musically fulfilling album if it was just on my own.”

Even if he is to prepare for a solo second album, Lim said he’ll not be doing something that’s been seen before.

“I want to do something that’s become the root of a composer,” said Lim. “When a pianist produces an album and it becomes a hit, the others follow suit and for some years, that composer or that repertoire is in fad. That’s what I don’t want to do.”

Lim will be holding a recital on Dec. 10 at the Concert Hall of the Seoul Arts Center in Southern Seoul. The concert organizers asked if he could at least perform Rachmaninov’s piano concerto because his fans are so eager to hear it live, but he said no.

He’ll perform Orlando Gibbons’ “Lord Salisbury – Pavan and Galliard,” Bach’s “15 Three-bart Inventions, ‘Sinfoinas’ for Keyboard, BWV 787-801,” Liszt’s “Deux Legendes, S. 175,” and “Annees de pelerinages, Deuxieme Anne ‘Italie,’ S. 161, No. 7.”

“I do love the pieces that I played at the competition,” said Lim. “But it was so difficult practicing for it that I don’t want to play them, not even once, for a while.”

Lim has selected a number of pieces that he enjoys and that have not been performed much in Korea.

The cover of Lim's new album [UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP]

“You know, I personally think winning a renowned competition is not a great achievement,” said Lim. “I’ve put a lot of thought into what I can do as a pianist, and what would be a great achievement for me as a pianist. For me, a great achievement is to visit as many places, like hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages, to perform for those who have a lack of opportunities to listen to a great piano performance. I don’t want for them to buy tickets to come and see me in fancy venues. I should be the one who is there to perform for them. I think being able to do that as much as possible is the greatest achievement for a pianist. I will do my best to achieve that.”

Lim’s upcoming recital begins at 5 p.m. at the Seoul Arts Center’s Concert Hall. Tickets range from 50,000 won ($37.70) to 100,000 won.