South Korean pianist Lim Dong-min, 28, will give a recital Sept. 28 at Seoul Arts Center in time for the release of his first solo album "Beethoven'' under the Sony BMG label. / Courtesy of Sony BMG
By Lee Hyo-won
Pianist Lim Dong-min is opening a new chapter in his career, with the release of his first solo album and appointment to a teaching position at Keimyung University. The 28-year-old is going from student to associate professor ― skipping the usual six-year route ― and has painted his first self-portrait ``Beethoven'' packaged nicely by Sony BMG.
One would expect such an artist would have much to say. Some musicians are vocal about their art, while others allow their work to speak for itself ― and Lim seems to be the latter.
``I don't have any particular thoughts,'' Lim commented about completing his album in an interview with The Korea Times. He brings Beethoven's Sonata No. 31, Op. 110, Sonata No. 14, Op. 27 ``Moonlight'' and No. 23, Op. 56 ``Appassionata.''
``I felt at ease while recording,'' he said about recording in New York, where he currently resides. Max Wilcox, a Grammy Award-winning producer who has worked on Beethoven recordings with piano greats like Artur Rubinstein and Richard Goode, took charge. Lim received lessons from Goode himself while studying at Mannes Music School in New York. ``(Wilcox) was quite resolute about what he wanted, but I agreed that it was best to be faithful to the composer's intentions,'' he said.
Lim's interpretation of No. 31 ― beautiful, rollicking phrasings flowing freely within an austere traditional cadre ― seems to be the voice for the taciturn pianist.
The pianist's choice of Beethoven marks a turn away from his reputation as a Chopin specialist. ``I wanted to try something new and not be trapped in the Chopin repertoire,'' he said. He selected every pianist's childhood favorites ``Moonlight'' and its usual counterpart ``Appassionata.'' He added No. 31 because he wanted to play one of Beethoven's later works that foreshadow the Romantic period. Moreover, he simply plays what he likes. His will be recording a couple more CDs with Sony, perhaps Schubert or Beethoven, but he has no intention to do a full cycle of Beethoven's sonatas. ``We'll have to see,'' he said. ``But I would like to give Bach a try since I have never played his pieces,'' he added after a slight pause.
This isn't Lim's first album. He has recordings of his 15th International Chopin Competition-winning performances (Victor, 2006). Sharing the third prize at the prestigious Warsaw event with his younger brother Dong-hyek elevated them both to stardom, and accepting the position at Keimyung University, which houses the Chopin Academy of Music & Performing Arts, was a natural choice. ``I don't think of it as a big burden or anything. I simply want to deliver what I learned,'' he said.
Having started the piano at a relatively late age of nine, Lim's rapid development took him abroad to Russia's Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory and Germany's Hanover Hochscule fur Music. ``I started playing the piano because everyone did at the time,'' he said, and he didn't dislike it. ``Music,'' he said, ``is just one method of expressing yourself.''
Lim in a way, almost demystifies the magical aura that often shrouds musicians and the creative process of music making. He doesn't listen to classical music 24 hours a day _ in fact he doesn't even have a stereo at his New York apartment. Having grown up as a fan of Michael Jackson, he spends his free time tuning into Korean drama soundtracks.
The media spotlight and attention of thousands of fans don't bother him either. ``I don't really pay attention to fans. I don't mind the press, either,'' he said, not with haughty or bemused indifference but unfaltering honesty ― perhaps a reflection of the instrumental clarity and clean, pure sound of his ``Moonlight'' sonata.
Lim celebrates the release of his first solo album with a recital at Seoul Arts Center, Sept. 28. He will play Sonatas No. 31 and 23 as well as Liszt's Sonata in b minor, S. 178. Tickets cost from 30,000 won to 70,000 won. Call (02) 599-5743.