During the final round of the sixteenth annual Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which took place in Fort Worth, Texas, six participants faced off against one another.
Each of the finalists took two different concertos to the stage to play with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the illustrious conductor Marin Alsop over the course of a period of four days, from June 14 to June 18.
Yunchan Lim, a South Korean pianist who is just 18 years old, was one of three finalists to choose Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto. On Friday, June 17, he was the only one of the three to play the piece at the third concert of the final round.
Throughout the whole of the competition, Lim gave performances of pieces by composers ranging from Bach to Beethoven, Chopin to Scriabin, including a version of Liszt’s Transcendental Études that received a great deal of acclaim.
Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, however, which he played in his last performance, was the piece that would ensure his win. While Marin Alsop diligently guided the orchestra to keep up with the young pianist’s remarkable tempo, Lim powered through the conclusion of Rachmaninov’s huge opus in a flurry of outstanding piano playing.
As Lim skilfully moved from dramatic cadenzas to the sweeping Romantic themes that Rachmaninov is renowned and revered for, Alsop could be seen nodding in satisfaction. A world-class conductor was observed wiping tears from her eyes as the piece was being ended by Lim with a stunning flourish.
The two artists had a heartfelt embrace at a moving point in the performance, and when Lim proceeded to greet the first row of violinists, Alsop could be seen both nodding her head in agreement and shaking it in astonishment as she and the orchestra marveled at the youthful talent on display.
The competition was presided over by Marin Alsop, who also served as the chairperson of the jury, which was comprised of such illustrious figures from the world of piano as Stephen Hough and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, both of whom were honored in the Queen’s Birthday Honours only recently.
Yunchan is that uncommon performer who manages to bring together deep musicality and tremendous skill in a natural and spontaneous way. The fact that he is just 18 years old is quite astounding.
Lim was the youngest competitor to advance to that stage of the competition when he was selected as a finalist, and on Saturday, June 18 it was announced that he had been awarded the gold medal.
Lim’s selection as a finalist already made a mark in the history books of the prestigious competition as the youngest competitor to progress to that stage of the competition.
Lim will get an extra three years of career assistance in addition to his winning prize of one hundred thousand dollars (or eighty-one thousand and six hundred and sixty pounds).
The Russian pianist Anna Geniushene, who is 31 years old, came in second, while the Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni, who is 28 years old, won the bronze medal.