Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
The idea of pursuing a career in music never occurred to me until I was a teenager. It was when I met Mrs. Park, my first piano teacher in the UK, I really started to develop an interest in classical music and playing the piano. The music teacher at my local school, Mr. Walsh, put me forward to perform at the school’s prize-giving day when I played Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and Mozart’s Turkish March. This was my first concert! I remember feeling very nervous but also excited and happy. For a young Korean boy in a new country who spoke barely any English, music became a really valuable tool for communication (and attention). I also remember being astounded by Sunwook Kim’s winning performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 at the Leeds Piano Competition in 2006. The day after the broadcast I very innocently went to the local music shop and bought a score of the concerto thinking I could play it. I did eventually play it a few years ago using that exact score.
I feel extremely lucky to have studied with many wonderful teachers – John Byrne, Richard Ormrod, Graham Scott, Murray Mclachlan, Jeremy Young, Michael Dussek and Kathryn Stott. It would need another article to write about what I have learnt with each of them but every single one of them has had an invaluable influence on me Lessons with Christopher Elton, Michel Beroff, Qian Wu and Nelson Goerner were also important in my development.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The biggest challenge for me is the music. Constantly trying to improve my playing and go further with my understanding of the music can be draining and frustrating but immensely rewarding.
As a young musician at the beginning of my professional career, there are many other new challenges I meet but I try to consider them as opportunities for self-assessment, self-reflection and self-development. If they can’t be avoided, I might as well make the most out of them!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Just like most other performing artists, not being able to perform for a live audience for more than a year was an extremely challenging experience. As we now slowly return to life as it was before, every performance feels like such a precious opportunity and I have grown to treat each of them, regardless of its venue and audience, with equal sense of responsibility and dedication.
Last year I played for a children’s choir run by Olympias Music Foundation which is a fantastic organisation in Manchester which amongst its many other projects, provides free music tuition to children who otherwise cannot afford it. During the middle of the pandemic when there was so little opportunity to share music with anyone directly, this was a hugely fulfilling and moving experience. I do feel proud to have been part of this great project and charity. (https://gofund.me/9318d373)
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Although I do have my own ideas about this, I try not to think about it too much and limit myself to performing only certain repertoire. Musicians, especially collaborative musicians need to be able to change ‘gears’ very quickly. What is more important is bringing my own voice to whatever I am playing at the time.
Having said this, I have always felt a deep connection to the music of Robert Schumann and I can’t go on for too long without playing his music!
You recently became a City Music Foundation Artist; how do you see your life as a musician progressing over the next few years with them?
It’s really exciting to be part of such a supportive and creative organisation. What is unique about City Music Foundation is that not only do they provide me with valuable performance opportunities but also opportunities and training to develop myself into a more creative and individual musician.
As a pianist with a deep love for collaborative work, I am hugely looking forward to playing with other talented CMF artists. I have already worked with flautist Sirius Chau with whom we performed live on BBC Radio 3 ‘In Tune’ last November and next week I will be performing with four more CMF musicians.
‘Turning Talent into Success’ is the motto of CMF. Whatever success might mean, I hope to be nearer to it in a few years’ time.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Whenever possible, I try to take into consideration the venue, the audience as well as the piano. I always have a list of new pieces I would like to add to my repertoire. It is sometimes possible to find appropriate excuses to play certain pieces like composers’ anniversaries. I often create a Spotify playlist of a potential programme, listen to it like a concert and see how I feel about it.
It can be fun for both myself and the audience to have a theme for the programme. Last week I played my first concert of the year for Abbotsholme Arts Society with a programme of Dances. For my upcoming solo recital at Barts Great Hall on 23rd February, I will be presenting my ‘About Time’ programme which is curated with works that directly or indirectly deals with the idea of time. It is built around the final piece in the programme, Graham Fitkin’s ‘Relent’ which the composer describes as being about his ‘perception of time, its various manifestations and ultimate inevitability’.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?
First of all, there will always be a place for classical music concerts in its traditional format. An evening recital at the Wigmore Hall with four Beethoven Sonatas can be a revelatory experience for anyone. However in order to reach out to new audiences we have to try new things. We need to challenge and rethink long-standing traditions in classical music concerts and experiment with new ideas. Format, repertoire, attire, lighting, venue – everything can be changed.
I am very excited to be involved with Manchester Collective and their upcoming project ‘Little Requiem’. This is an innovative organisation that is presenting unfamiliar and familiar classical music in unconventional as well as conventional venues with experimental ways of presentation. As with all new attempts, some things will go well and others won’t, but it is a step forward.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Not having to think about success? Never losing the love and curiosity for music and striving to do something new everyday.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Above all – hard work. No one can put the hours in for you. However, if I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say go for more walks and spend more time with friends and family. It’s all about balance!
Victor Lim is a City Music Foundation 2021 Artist.
He performs at Barts Great Hall on Wednesday 23rd February at 1pm in a free lunchtime concert as part of the new ‘Piece of Mind’ series. More information: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lunchtime-concert-series-victor-lim-tickets-208032850857
Described as a pianist with ‘with great possibilities of nuance and perfect flexibility’
(Revista Arta), South Korean-British pianist Victor Lim is establishing himself as one of the
most versatile and creative musicians of his generation. Following his first public
appearance in the televised 2012 BBC Young Musician of the Year, Victor has performed
around the world in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Romania,
China, Singapore and South Korea. He has collaborated with Stephen Hough, Graham
Fitkin, Karen Gomyo, Eszter Haffner, Suzie Mészáros and Sandra Lied-Haga, and enjoys
duo partnerships with soprano Xiang Ting Teng and cellist Waynne Kwon with whom the
duo won the 2020 Tunnell Trust Music Club Award. Victor is a City Music Foundation
Artist, Making Music UK’s Philip and Dorothy Green Young Artist and the winner of the
2021 RNCM Gold Medal.
(Photo credit Benjamin Ealovega)