Digging Deeply Into Beethoven in Head and Heart, an idiosyncratic player with plenty of original ideas and the technique to carry them out, Ms. Lim has devoted considerable time to studying not only the works themselves but also Beethoven biographies and letters and other historical materials. A physically exuberant player, Ms. Lim tossed back her long, untied hair during more tumultuous moments and played with expressive commitment and colorful nuance throughout both sonatas. Ms. Lim’s intellectual analysis and emotional engagement resulted in fresh, vigorous interpretations.
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
Just as actors traditionally portray King Lear later in their careers, pianists usually wait to record Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. Offering the 32 works at 24 is a bold move, but the Korean pianist HJ Lim, who performed the complete cycle in Paris in 2010, felt ready. She demonstrates her mettle with a set of distinctive, passionate interpretations, which landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical chart.
New York Times
Having a recorded Beethoven sonata cycle to your credit at 24 is quite an accomplishment. She brings distinctive ideas and unabashed impetuosity to these touchstone works...she boasts dazzling technique and plays with dash and spontaneity."
“Here is a new artist swept up in the moment. In striving to project the pathbreaking elements and impetuosity of the music, Ms. Lim plays with...rhapsodic freedom
New York Times, Anthony Tommasini
In Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1, the increasingly celebrated HJ Lim left no doubt that she's one of the bigger personalities of her generation, playing Yamaha's latest model in ways that made the instrument seem simultaneously bright and imposing.
The Philadelphia Inquirer , David Patrick Stearns
"HJ LIM, NIGHT PANTHERE, BENAROYA HALL"
"Enter pianist HJ Lim, or as I call her, the French-Korean Night Panther. She strode in confidently with long black hair, wearing a long black silk genius-robe. She sat down, flung the silk tails behind the seat, tossed her hand rag into the open well of the grand piano, and unleashed a two-handed hyper-dexterous volley on the keys. Her playing was a high-speed embroidery that deciphered the Mendelssohn into the furtherness of now and beyond.
She’s a combination of accuracy, ferocity, and touch. Flurries of runs ran into moments of melodic stasis, where notes floated. There were sections combined with the symphony, sections where they rallied back and forth, and sections where she soloed, wafting long, slow, single notes that encased feathers into the ice of a frozen lake. Then the lake in an instant was a monsoon of sprinting scales, and the Night Panther was exploding waves into equations.
If I was going to have brain surgery, I would want HJ Lim to be my surgeon.The operation would be mistake-free, and it would be done in eight seconds. She’d be like, “Next.” I really wanted her to play the monstrosity of a pipe organ, mounted on the wall behind the stage, taunting. (The C. B. Fisk, Opus 114, with 62 voices, 83 ranks, 4,490 pipes.) The things HJ Lim would have done with that thing. The Night Panther would absolutely have phantomed the ever living hell out of that opera. The Night Panther probably doesn’t take requests though."
“Has there ever been a more audacious recording debut than that of South Korean-born, French-trained pianist HJ Lim?“ In the infamous Piano Sonata No. 29 “Hammerklavier,” she projects a strong viewpoint and such clarity that you’re astounded anew at what strange, forward-looking music it is.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
If there’s a single core to the piano repertory, it’s the 32 sonatas that Beethoven composed between 1793 and 1822. Altogether, they represent about 10 hours of music. And plenty of pianists have recorded the whole set, from Artur Schnabel, in the 1930s, onward. My own favorite cycle, on EMI, is by the young South Korean H.J. Lim.
The Dallas News, By Scott Cantrell
Pianist HJ Lim: at last, a presence!
Had I but a single word to describe the young Korean pianist Hyun-Jung Lim, it would be ‘presence’.
(…)how much the very keys of the piano approve of HJ Lim in these two Scarlatti sonatas; turning water into wine could, after all, be comparable to a technical process, playing the repeated notes of K. 141 like that is downright miraculous, and HJ Lim alone is capable of it.
(….)you are before an exceptional talent, ‘instinctive playing’... like a ‘natural phenomenon’. Except that a natural phenomenon is without thought – the total opposite of this young pianist. Far from counting solely on her intuition and aptitudes, albeit extraordinary, HJ Lim studies the period, the musical and historical contexts, the original tempi (defining them is not always easy) before undertaking an entire cycle. Because, unlike Horowitz or Argerich, it is in the entity of the great musical cycles that she succeeds in finding coherence and the sense of the units that make them up: at an age when even the most promising of her peers are ‘building a repertoire’, she gives only complete cycles in concert: the Beethoven sonatas (that she recorded for EMI at the tender age of twenty-five), Bach’s preludes and fugues, Chopin’s preludes, scherzos, ballades, waltzes and etudes, those of Rachmaninov…
Huffington Post, By Dionysios Dervis-Bournias
Press excerpts - UK
"It forces you to listen to this music as if for the very first time, rediscovering everything that is great about it Everything is dangerously invigorating, strikingly original. This is the kind of album that will save the classical recording industry, It’s the kind of album that, if you’ve never heard a Beethoven sonata before will convert you for life and ruin every other performance you’ll hear." Telegraph UK
“HJ Lim tackles these pieces with invention as much as she does with respect. Volume two ought to be another triumph.” BBC Music review
[...] HJ Lim played with a wonderful balance of subtlety and extroversion. Her accompanying of the woodwind in the second movement, for example, showed a humble flexibility, and her softly elegant phrasing seemed to inspire similar beauty in woodwind solos. She set a furiously brisk tempo for the third movement and she maintained a sense of frenetic energy. In the fugal passage this was matched with very well coordinated string playing. When the famous theme made its final appearance after a cadenza flourish from Lim, it was stately, sitting a notch behind impassioned emotion. The coda, at lightning speed, prompted whole-hearted appreciation from the audience.
ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, BACHTRACK BY ROHAN SHOTTON
The crazy abandon of a Korean maverick. The style is very visceral, at times, almost breathless in its impetuosity
The Irish Times
“It’s easy to see why she rapidly became so highly acclaimed, for she has a powerful, charismatic and captivating presence on stage and her technique is quite prodigious.” - International Record Review
This was a powerful reading with fast tempi, full of ultra-Romantic impulsiveness and making light of the many virtuosic demands on the pianist . Having already recorded the full cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas (the youngest performer ever to do this) she is clearly a star in the making.
SOUTH WALES ARGUS, GERAINT DAVIES
Press excerpts - France
Value does not wait, HJ Lim has not yet reached the quarter century that she has already accomplished the complete Beethoven sonatas in recording.(EMI). "You know, Beethoven's music cannot be played, it has to be reinvented," Anton Rubinstein once said to Alfred Cortot, student of Louis Diemer at the Paris Conservatoire. It seems that the young Korean has also meditated on this wise advice because we can only be grasped - and what concerns us, excited -by the freedom and the sincereness of her interpretation strongly signed.
HJ Lim goes beyond the horizon of the bars in order to put highlight on - and if necessary conflict - the blocks that shape and structure the beethovenian discourse. Since Wild Earld in hisrecording in 1994, we haven't heard a version that is so full of freedom and jubilation of the sonata Hammerklavier.
Concert Classic, Alain Cochard
Passion, vitality, depth: The royal piano of HJ Lim. Paris, August 2010, she gave a complete Beethoven Sonatas, with a verve and panache that were already outstanding (read our account of Beethoven by HJ Lim). Her liquid touch and the perlé are almost Debussyst, and immaterial suggestiveness of the last Ravelian waltz (Epilogue), true listening to the suspended and enigmatic universes. Mesmerizing Piano
The fineness and subtlety of the very inspired pianist unfold here without restraint but with an infaillible thought that ensures the strong temperament and the organic unity between each of very characterized sequence (captivating rubato of the two Poems of Scriabin).
Obviously this play between confrontations, affinities, shimmering allusions first distinguishes first the tightrope working and airy touch of the Korean pianist HJ LIM. Fairy, inner exhilarating and enigmatic.
By Hugo Papbst
Long black veil, black set, long black hair to the middle of the back, sparkling black eyes in a clear and malicious joy. When HJ Lim’s fairy fingers (or witch?) began to play, we quickly realized we were going to go through all stages of admiration. From astonishment to the question: how is that even possible? How is it that human beings can reach such a level of virtuosity?
She interpreted these piano monstrosities with ease, force and a will that nothing could stop. Ten degrees on the Richter scale. Never hesitating, never a mistake, a flaw. If one day you hear that HJ Lim plays in your city, run. It is a phenomenon. The joy itself of playing and of living. The youth became pianist. And beautiful, too. All gifts of heaven and earth.
La Croix, By Bruno Frappat
Press excerpts, Germany
[...] But superiority soon made itself felt. It looked highly artistic when the soloist, Ms Lim, occasionally used her free hand in a grand gesture to pluck sounds out of the air. But this is more than just showmanship. She plays with the greatest virtuosity, with a beautifully graduated palette of keyboard colours. She drew an expressive cantabile from the piano at the beginning of the slow movement. When the orchestra joined in, you felt surrounded by a velvety warmth - until the players plunged into the Presto with the requisite bustle. Even faster was Ms Lim’s encore - her own arrangement of a Korean folk song.
“HJ Lim’s interpretation of the Fugue has an electrifying vitality...these first recordings show a spirited virtuoso with a high level of structural awareness.”
Fono Forum Magazine
HJ Lim, die junge Solistin des Abends, die im Kopfsatz des Ravel-Konzerts in äußerst flinken und virtuosen Stellen ihre Fingerfertigkeit in sehr lockeren und weich gelungen Läufen unter Beweis stellen konnte, verstand es besonders im zweiten Satz wunderbar, sich zurückzunehmen, um an den entsprechenden Stellen den Orchestersolisten den Vortritt zu lassen, sodass Orchestermelodie und Klavierbegleitung fließend ineinander verschmolzen und sich zu einem wohltönenden Gesamtklang verbanden. Auch im energetischen letzten Satz war ein harmonisches, durch gegenseitiges Verständnis geprägtes Miteinander zu bewundern.
Als Zugabe präsentierte HJ Lim, die sich u.a. durch eine Konzertserie mit allen Beethovensonaten, die sie an acht aufeinanderfolgenden Tagen in Paris spielte, einen Namen gemacht hat, eine Eigentranskription eines Volksliedes aus ihrer Heimat Korea. Dieser virtuose Vortrag stand musikalisch ganz in der kompositorischen Tradition des zuvor erklungenen Ravel-Konzertes.
Press excerpts - Norway
In the Liszt concerto she appeared, not only as a phenomenal virtuoso, with extreme rapidity, and a clear and powerful touch of force and lash, - but also with depth in her interpretation. The extreme ability to hit the right notes in combination with her sound-making, gave us a kind of "goose-skin" - Arnfinn Bø Rygg, Stavanger Aftenblad
Press excerpts - Italy
She manages to marry her acrobatic technique with strong personality that gives life in her very creative interpretations. -Daniela Zacconi, Corriere della Sera
Press excerpts - Switzerland
The pictures show a graceful young lady with an appearance of a student, with dreamy eyes. So when you listen to the complete Beethoven sonatas which the Korean HJ Lim has recorded in 2011 - she was twenty-four! - We cannot believe what we are hearing: this tiny woman recreates the Beethoven universe with a temperament, an authority, a flame, a maturity that leaves you speechless and explodes all academicism. And this is only a small part of her already vast repertoire!
Revue Musicale de la Suisse Romande
By Jacques Viret
Starting the second evening at the Hans Huber-Saal, the pianist HJ Lim came out on stage with a rapid gait, with a very black hair and all dressed in black.
The works she chose were amongst the most difficult imaginable.
During 50 minutes, this exceptionally gifted artist ignited an incomparably fiery pianistic space with Rachmaninov's Etudes-Tableaux op.33 and op.39, super-virtuoso sound images, spectacular and extremely bewitching, and especially they were interpreted like the monumental pianistic dramas.
This was followed by Chopin's Etudes, no less demanding, an incredible enchantment of possibilities of pianistic expressions, subtle and grandiose, magically performed by the phenomenal virtuoso. Basellandschaftlicher Zeitung, November 2009
Her powerful playing, without taboos, ultraromantic, imaginative and visionary remind of the finest pianists of the past. She faces each sonata, the most modest to the most monumental, with an energy, a fire, a sense of transcendence, a organic flexibility that leaves speachless - especially in the pages heard a thousand of times....we seems to rediscover this movement with fluid tempo, the infinite shades of HJ Lim. In short, the level of inspiration remains stratospheric throughout this first volume. An immense Beethoven interpreter is born.
Tribune de Genève
Press excerpts - Japan
Serial essay by Koho Uno
Record Geijutsu Magazine
Mitari ,Kkitari (Seeing and Hearing)
No Enemies Ahead, A Real First Class Act, HJ Lim
I was offered to write this serial essay on this magazine in 2012 from the editorial department and though the offer was charming enough, I accepted it on the condition that the term would be 3 years only, considering my physical strength. I hope the readers could enjoy sharing the remaining year with me.
(…) Her complete Beethoven Sonatas cycle concerts in June 2013 have given me unforgettable impact but just within another year, she has achieved a real further g progress. I was overwhelmed, surprised and shocked by this fact. The Nov. 22nd 2014 recital was a concert that one could only hear once or twice in 50 years, without any exaggeration. I had written on the concert flyer, ―“The extreme power, force, might, intensity, fierceness! In the theatrical last coda of “Appassionata” I felt like screaming out loud, “Finally!!” ―
The above is an extract from my concert review in 2013 and like the sub title of the concert itself “ Beethoven – Storm and Urge” , she performed exactly like it but with more information packed into the music. At the 2013 recital at Hama Rikyu Asahi Hall, I had to sit in the front row where reverberation was too much for a piano performance thus in a very bad environment, but the acoustics in the Daichi Seimei Hall was perfect and I felt that I had finally enjoyed 100% of HJ Lim’s music. She was dressed all in black as usual, flicking off her long black hair off her face, throwing everything she had into the piano. This time, I thought, that the concert should be given “Black Thunder” as the title.
HJ Lim is actually doing exactly as Taro Okamoto (famous Japanese art maestro) once said “Art should not be something comfortable. Not something pretty. Not something played well.” “Art is Explosion!! “
If someone feels that HJ Lim’s Beethoven is crazy, then, that person does not have the right to enjoy or taste Beethoven. Beethoven’s music is crazy and protruding.
HJ Lim speaks out for Beethoven’s emotions.
The dynamics was continuingly surging, while she improvisingly chose the most important note from the harmony, the most important note for her on that particular day. Every note has a meaning and talked for itself. HJ had definitely entered a deeper state of mind. She even seemed to have room in her heart as though the tempo was fast, the rhythm reached the deep ground as we could actually hear the ground rumbling. HJ totally risks her life for it. Totally, in a different level.
Her “Appasionata” was on fire, like Asura.
It was a complete extraordinary performance to close the concert of the day, and I felt that I could die, feeling her total commitment. I was totally breathless and excited by the explosion in the coda, totally beyond human abilities. For encore, she played 2 pieces from the Well-tempered clavier by JS Bach, the programme to be played in her next recital at Yamaha Hall in December. First I thought it was a romantic piece by Chopin etc, but it was actually Bach! Immeasurable power of expression, immeasurable talent.
When everyone thought that was the limit of HJ’s stamina for the day, she started playing “Toccata” by Prokofiev. The demonish power overwhelmed that of “Appassionata”. HJ’s piano ended by breaking everything into pieces. Immeasurable energy!
People could have heard her if they came to the concert hall that day. They should have run to the hall despite any other business they had. Meeting such a talent is also up to one’s talent.
Eight days after this recital, HJ appeared in Suntory Hall with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra “Promenade Concert” playing Tchaikovsky’s piano Concerto No.1 conducted by Yuuki Horiuchi. I was thrilled to see Suntory Hall, full of 2000 audiences.
There appeared a three-dimensional Tchaikovsky. It was full of symphonic taste keeping the beautiful pianism alongside. During the intermission, I met the editor who always comes to concerts of my recommendation, and he was almost crying, touched by her performance. I felt completely the same way.
I now have to go back to mentioning the concert at Izumi Hall, Osaka, on October 2nd where she played K.467, which I left out until now. I could not imagine what kind of Mozart HJ would be playing, somebody who plays Beethoven in the style most far from the word “comfortable” but it turned out to be the most enjoyable performance of beauty.
The eye contact made by HJ and conductor, HJ and woodwinds, made it even more wonderful. She was a different person from that Beethoven performance.
Her well polished touch mixed with the melting pianissimo, tasteful diminuendos and the particular Mozartian tempo with less pauses run through the scales. Norrington’s tempo was fast (especially the 2nd movement) which really was a good match with HJ’s originality.
HJ certainly has Mozart, completely in her hands. Gouging and pausing with her left hand,similar to that of Heidsieck’s appeared now and then, but the music flowed more naturally than that of Heidsieck. There was Mozart, full of freeness and sparks of genius.
Candenza was by Rabinovitch. It was something very unique, for instance, a phrase from Rachmaninov’s concerto No.2 was added in the first movement.
Encore piece was Chopin’s “Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. posth.”
How graceful. The pianissimo, and the demolishing left hand chords was extraordinary.
With the last delicate grace notes 4 times in a row, she played the second one in Forte! Beethoven, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Chopin.
HJ has no enemies ahead, but is a real first class act!