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Review: Yunchan Lim Plays Chopin at Carnegie Hall

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But even in this early going, there were thoughtful, personal moments. Seven measures into the third étude, there is a passing phrase when the melody is ornamented twice, in quick succession, with little grace notes. Lim lingered ever so slightly over the first of these two, then did the second in time: a perfect, tiny evocation of memory giving way to reality. At the end of No. 8, he chose softness instead of the score’s indicated fortissimo, creating a smooth transition into the mysterious No. 9, rather than a stark contrast.

By about halfway through the Op. 10 études, Lim had found the balance between flexibility and clarity. And in the Op. 25 set, which followed intermission, he was in a true groove: the sense of freedom still present, but now more artfully shaped.

The third étude galloped without being overstated; the fifth was sly; the ninth was raucous, stride-piano fun. Lim unleashed a rough but exciting touch in the 10th’s octaves, with a second section that built from hymnlike simplicity through increasing complexity to a devilish transition back to the octaves. The swirling drama of the 11th gave way, in the 12th, to a grandly molten legato under relentless arpeggios.

This was virtuosity as life force. The sixth of the Op. 25 études, among the toughest Chopin wrote, revolves around a trill, a fast alternation, of double thirds — extremely hard to handle, let alone at whirring speed.

Around the smoothness of his trill, Lim picked low notes of organlike richness and glittering high ones. As in the best performances of these pieces, there was not just music in the difficulty; there was also joy.

Yunchan Lim

Performed on Wednesday at Carnegie Hall, Manhattan.

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