A 19-year-old pianist often hailed as the “classical music answer to K-pop” has inked an exclusive contract with Decca Records in the United Kingdom.
Yunchan Lim stunned the music world last year by becoming the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Texas.
His rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 has garnered over 12 million views on YouTube.
Decca secured the musician after an extended bidding war that saw executives from record companies in Tokyo, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, London, New York, and Seoul vying for his signature, ultimately leading him to choose the 94-year-old British label.
“Decca has produced recordings with exceptional sound quality and has collaborated with many legendary musicians,” he stated.
“It’s a record label that can truly be appreciated by a musician.”
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, the teenager’s performances have been described as “profound,” “magnetic,” and “poetic.” His captivating rendition of Rachmaninoff’s concerto in Texas even moved conductor Marin Alsop to tears.
“A slender, unsmiling youth who seems somewhat otherworldly, Lim appears to not only meld with his piano but also revel in it,” wrote Jessica Duchen from The Independent, reviewing his British debut at Wigmore Hall in January.
“His playing is so good you’d think you were dreaming.”
“Yunchan plays those notes – all of them – as a pathway to the real elsewhere,” agreed Norman Lebrecht in The Critic. The New York Times praised how his interpretation of Rachmaninoff shifted from “quietly, calmly penetrating clarity” to “pinged intensity.”
“At the end of the piece, his upper body leans into the keys, his left foot tapping,” wrote Zachary Woolf.
Yunchan was born in Siheung, South Korea, in 2004 and attributes his love for the piano to his mother’s early recordings of Chopin and Liszt.
He began piano lessons at the age of seven and entered the Seoul Arts Center Music Academy a year later.
“I immediately recognized that he had extraordinary talent,” his teacher told The New York Times. “He was very humble.”
Since winning the Van Cliburn competition, he has released two albums – one featuring the highly demanding Transcendental Études by Liszt, recorded during the contest’s semifinals, and a live performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Gwangju Symphony Orchestra.
The latter, released by Universal Music Korea, achieved platinum status in his home country within hours.
His first studio recording with Decca is set to launch in the spring of 2024.
In a statement, one of the label’s presidents, Tom Lewis, remarked, “Yunchan is simply the most exciting new classical artist on the planet. It took a global mission to secure his signature… and we are thrilled that he chose us.”