Teen is Youngest Winner of the Renowned Global Competition
South Korean Yunchan Lim has won top honors at this year’s 16th annual Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His winning performance not only inspired the audience to jump to their feet and burst into applause and cheers, but a watchful observer might also have noted that the conductor Marin Alsop subtly wiped away a tear in appreciation of the magnificent performance.
The Cliburn Competition is one of the most prestigious classical music tournaments in the world. Held every four years in Ft. Worth, Texas, the 18-year-old Korean was the youngest to ever win the gold medal. Lim competed against 388 pianists from over 50 countries.
Of the total number of contestants, only 30 were invited to compete in Texas, and an ultimate six advanced to the final round.
The Six Finalists of the 2022 Van Cliburn Competition:
Dmytro Choni, Ukraine, 28
Anna Geniushene, Russia, 31
Uladzislau Khandohi, Belarus, 20
Yunchan Lim, South Korea, 18
Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 27
Clayton Stephenson, United States, 23
During two grueling weeks of competition, finalists each displayed a series of virtuoso performances for the judges. Ultimately the highest honor went to Lim.
Despite starting the piano at a comparatively later age than most of his competitors, at 7, the teen made history as the youngest winner in the Cliburn competition since it was founded in 1962.
This was not Lim’s first time attending Cliburn—in fact, he won second place in the 2018 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition back when he was only 14. Unlike many of the world’s most famous pianists, Yunchan never went abroad for musical training and trained exclusively with Korean pianists, close to home.
He is currently a student at the Korea National University of Arts and has chosen to study near his hometown in Siheung. But Lim has received international acclaim for his talent ever since he first stepped onto the global musical stage at the 2018 Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists and the Cooper International Competition. At age 15, he became the youngest pianist to win one of Korea’s most competitive piano tournaments, the IsangYun International Competition.
For his final, gold-medal performance at Cliburn, Lim played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, op. 30 with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The video of his final performance has surpassed 6.5 million views in the past month and has quickly become the most-watched performance of this piece. Judges have described him as “time-traveler”, amazed at his captivating ability to draw audiences back to the 18th or 19th century where his performed pieces were originally composed.
As the gold-medalist, Lim was awarded $100,000 and guaranteed three years of career and concert management from some of the world’s best musical managers. He also won the audience choice award and best performance of a new work. From now until mid-April 2023, Lim will be touring and playing in concert halls around the world.
Shortly after his accolade, Yunchan said in an interview, “I am still a student and I feel like I have to learn a lot still…this is a great competition and I feel the burden of receiving this great honor and award so I will just push myself to live up to the honor I received today.”