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Yunchan Lim Conquers The Cliburn at 18

June 19,2022

SEE FULL Fort Worth Magazine ARTICLE BY John Henry HERE.

Yunchan Lim blew away onlookers — and apparently the jury — on Friday with such a performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 that some longtimers believed that his might have been the best performance, not only of this cycle, but ever at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

That’s quite a declaration, but on Saturday, the 18-year old from South Korea, a native of the city of Siheung, became the youngest winner of the prestigious gold medal at The Cliburn, awarded to him at Bass Performance Hall in Downtown Fort Worth.

Included in the top prize was $100,000 and a career management package.

The silver medal and $50,000 was awarded to Anna Geniushene of Russia. The recipient of the bronze and $25,000 was Dmytro Choni of Ukraine. Both also earned career management packages.

“I am still a student,” Lim said. “I feel like I learn a lot still. It’s a great competition and I feel the burden of receiving this great and honorable award. I will push myself to measure myself up to the honor I received today.”

In the finals, he challenged himself with difficult pieces, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 and Rachmaninov, which he played with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

In total, Lim beat out 388 applicants and the 30 who were invited to compete in Fort Worth. It’s no small feat, particularly considering the grueling 17-day schedule.

The Cliburn, as always, drew a vast international audience. Officials said afterward that in addition to the thousands who witnessed the festival in person at TCU’s Van Cliburn Concert Hall and the semifinals and finals at Bass Hall, 8.5 million people watched via webcast across 170 countries. In addition, 50 million interacted on social media channels.

“They gave quite useful and interesting feedback,” said Geniushene, showing off the wit and personality that is sure to dazzle audiences to come. “One girl, she told me she was studying piano for several years. She advised me to smile when I was on stage. It’s quite useful. I keep saying to me, I completely forget how I am behaving on stage. This is useful feedback. I think we all enjoyed this experience and hopefully it will continue.”

Lim’s appearance and result here were not complete surprises. He had put together an impressive international résumé before arriving in Piano City.

Lim introduced himself to the international stage at age 14 by capturing a second and the Chopin Special Award at the Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists in 2018 in his first-ever competition. That same year, he was the youngest participant in the Cooper International Competition, where he won third and the audience prize, which provided the opportunity to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra. At age 15, he was the youngest to win Korea’s IsangYun International Competition.

At The Cliburn, Lim also won Best Performance of a New Work, composed by jury member Stephen Hough and performed in the preliminary rounds, and the Audience Award, a reward for his extraordinary performance on Friday with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Unlike the rest, Lim has flourished without any study abroad.  He currently studies at the Korea National University of Arts under Minsoo Sohn.

“That could be my next step,” he said of studying abroad. “But I do have a great teacher in Korea, and to make the decision, I’ll discuss the possibility with my teacher after this competition is over.”

Lim discovered piano as a child, bypassing the more popular activity of taekwondo that many of his friends had taken up. He did piano instead and fell in love with the music.

Now, he now is one of the world’s preeminent messengers of the language of classical music, confirmed through conquering the field on one of the genre’s biggest stages.

“I wanted my music to become deeper, and if that desire reached the audience, I’m satisfied,” Lim said.