Famed South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim performs at Fresno State

Yunchan Lim, a famous South Korean pianist, played at the Paul Shaghoian Memorial Concert Hall on Oct. 14. (Diego Vargas/The Collegian)

On Friday, Keyboard Concerts welcomed famed South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim to the Paul Shaghoian Memorial Concert Hall. Lim, who became the youngest winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition earlier this year at just 18 years old, has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Busan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Korea Symphony before coming to Fresno for the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts.

While the concerts in the series usually take place at Fresno State’s Concert Hall, which seats 270 attendees, Lim’s concert was the first in the concert series’ history to be moved to a bigger venue, the Paul Shaghoian Memorial Concert Hall on the campus of Clovis North High School, because of the high demand for tickets from fans. All 750 seats were sold out in anticipation of Lim’s performance weeks before it was held.

Although the concert started at 8 p.m., fans started lining up for the concert well before that. Lane Patterson and his partner, Naomi, traveled from the Bay Area and arrived at the concert hall by 1 p.m. to be first in line for the general-admission seating. 

“We just wanted to make sure we got the best seats, and we wanted to watch his fingers on the keyboard from up close,” Patterson said. “He’s amazing. His performance in the semi final and the final in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Cliburn International Competition was really a big deal.”

Aside from arriving early, many fans also commuted to Fresno from other parts of the state. Several fans bought round-trip tickets from Phoenix for the performance. Heather Kim and Eunice Shin drove four hours from Orange County to attend the concert.

“We were very excited to come see Yunchan,” Kim said. “He is a big star in South Korea right now.”

Lim began his concert with a rendition of 4 Ballades, Op. 10 by Johannes Brahms. The piece instilled a sense of unease and worry, building in a soft lower octave until unleashing a flurry of hard, loud low notes, plateauing into a mellow, melancholic feel. In between the outbursts of powerful notes, soft high melodies followed.

Lim then performed Fantasy in F-sharp minor, Op. 28 by Felix Mendelssohn. Lim intertwined strong high notes with low ones in a delicate, powerful performance. A sudden frenzy of rapid high notes evoked a feeling of panic, with flurries of strong low notes slowing down the piece. In a cascade of slow, gloomy melodies, the song led into a rapid buildup before concluding in a blitz of powerful music.

A highlight in the second half was Franz Liszt’s “Deux légendes.” Fast high notes built up and fell down in the performance, often interjected with strong medium tones. A scampering of a high melody preceded a powerful roar of medium notes, followed by a manic storm of melodies before settling into a peaceful soothing tone.

Lim concluded his performance with an encore consisting of  panicked shrieks of high notes crescendoing into a tranquil tune of medium melodies with prolonged hums of low notes blanketing the piece. The pianist was given a standing ovation by the audience. Lim’s performance was part of his 2022-23 inaugural tour as the winner of the Van Cliburn gold medal. He will perform eight more concerts in the U.S., Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. More information about Lim’s upcoming performances can be found on the Cliburn’s website.

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