At the age of 17, Lim Dong Hyek signed with EMI (now Warner Classic) and since then has recorded Chopin Ballades, Sonatas, and Preludes, Schubert Impromptus, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2 on five albums.
Lim played many pieces as a pianist, but he has a lot of affection for Schubert and thinks these pieces are the best suited for him. He introduced Schubert as a composer who fits well with him and likes to sing, whose music is grand but mixed with lyrical moments. Lim said it was an honor to be able to show his thoughts and interpretations of a composer he admires.
Lim’s unique and well-balanced sound holds the listeners’ attention during the forty minutes of Schubert’s Sonata No. 20. The audience can feel how he practices hard and gives comfort from his warm sound at the same time. His particular sound, which is crystal clear and undefiled, makes us listen to his playing more closely. In just a few moments while listening to the recording, a number of questions come to mind. “How can I make a sound like Lim?” “How can I get that sense while playing the piano like Lim?” It’s probably a common idea that many performers feel.
Although many pianists are having trouble with these pieces, he seemed to be particularly concerned about controlling emotional lines. He said that these sonatas are deep and dark, and show the late Schubert he talked about in his Warner Classics interview.
In an interview with Warner Classic Korea, when asked what his first question would be if he met Schubert, he replied, “I want to ask if the recording went well.” And he wanted to ask about Schubert’s intentions for emotions. About the playing, Lim likes the Schubert’s music flow which was greatly influenced by Beethoven, but he feels the written trills are still difficult to make perfect. At this point, what if students or pianists who want to become a pianist like him hear this interview, what they might think?
Some of the recording sessions lasted nine hours. In discussion with the recording engineers, he focused his attention on tone quality and musical details — He believes that Schubert’s sonatas imitate human voices. During a press conference in Seoul, he said that he needed to challenge himself to show his various styles of playing through Schubert’s Piano Sonatas.
Before one session, a bird flew into the studio, which made Lim even more worried before the recording. All of the staff members and technical people had worked hard to adjust to the equipment so that it could capture the sound Lim wanted and he was worried the bird would cause a problem but the situation was solved.
Lim’s sixth album, Schubert: Piano Sonatas, features sonatas, No. 20 (in A major D.959) and No. 21 (in B-flat major D.960). Many piano virtuosos find these pieces difficult to record because of their simple melody line that needs to be played very cleanly. Schubert didn’t provide much information on the score, so pianists need to bring their own knowledge to their interpretation.
The first movement of Sonata no. 20 sounds like a fluttering heart. Lim’s emotional playing made listeners look forward to what notes will come next. His lively, light performance suggests that playing the piece is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. In the 2nd movement, Lim brought out all of the sorrow and tragedy, beautifully reflecting Schubert’s lonely and melancholy mood.
Schubert’s third movement of No. 21 is a Scherzo with a bouncy feeling of rhythmic freedom. The back and forth movement between the right and the left hands makes the melody even more lively. Lim’s playing and his smiling face adds to Schubert’s joyful mood.
2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Lim’s professional debut as a pianist. Although he said that there’s still more to do in his planning of many performances in the future. This makes his fans look forward to his performances and his musical growth.