If you think HJ Lim is an Asian prodigy whose childhood was only flourished by a piano keyboard, you should think again. Coming from a family heavily marked by the Korean wars, Beethoven and Chopin were for her synonyms of freedom of expression that she could reach one day. At the age of twelve in 1999, she decides to relocate herself in France to pursue her dream of freedom, and enters at the conservatory of Compiègne where she studied with Marc Hoppeler, living with a host family.
Five months later, she graduated with a gold medal, then three years later, she graduated from the Conservatoire National Région de Rouen with First Prize, and went on to become the youngest person to obtain the Diplôme d’Etudes Musicales Complètes of Normandy - aged fifteen. At sixteen, she becomes a legally emancipated minor as she “(…) proved her great maturity and self-governance (…)”. Short after, following a long reflexion with the accord of her very happy mother, HJ Lim decides to become a buddhist nun as she realizes that a religious path will be a way for her to exclusively focus on her original pursuit of freedom and ultimately, of the essence of being. After the refusal of her buddhist teacher, she resigns to enter at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, and three years later, graduates from studying with Henri Barda again with First Prize, then pursued her studies with Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky.
Her personality of a “totalist" emerges from her adolescence when passionate about an artist, she just feels the need to absorb the integrality of the works as well as all of the correspondences and notes. Thus, Plato, Dostoyevsky, Poulenc and Chopin are part of her intellectual bulimia and it felt only natural when in 2010, she performed the complete Beethoven sonatas over eight consecutive days in Paris creating a sensation in musical world, with her own essay on Beethoven and analysis on each of the sonatas. These extraordinary concerts were to be the catalyst to her ongoing success: when she recorded the complete cycle for EMI Classics the following year, she became not only the youngest interpreter to ever record these masterpieces, but the first and only classical pianist to debut at number one on the Billboard classical chart and on iTunes chart all over the world. Her second album is a solo recording of works by Ravel and Scriabin, released by EMI-Warner Classics.
In 2016, Les editions Albin Michel has discovered her extraordinary life story and has released a book with her, “Le Son du Silence” relating her philosophical, spiritual and musical reflexions, as well as her unusual path.
HJ Lim continues to deepen her exploration by playing in concerts the integral of the first Book of Well Tempered Clavier of Bach, as well as all preludes of Debussy and Chopin’s complete preludes, scherzos, ballades and waltzes.
Her recital of the complete Rachmaninov's Etudes-Tableaux along with Chopin 24 Etudes that she performed at the Stadtcasino of Basel has been described by the Basellandschaftlicher Zeitung as "an incomparably fiery pianistic space, super-virtuoso sound images, spectacular and extremely bewitching, and especially they were interpreted like the monumental pianistic dramas (…) an incredible enchantment of possibilities of pianistic expressions, subtle and grandiose, magically performed by the phenomenal virtuoso."
Recent concerto performances included a tour with NDR Sinfonieorchester of Hamburg at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, in Sala Sao Paulo in Brazil, an Asian tour with Sir Roger Norrington and the Zurich chamber orchestra and 4 Rachmaninov concertos with Barcelona Symphony and Pablo Gonzalez in three days, concerts with Seattle Symphony, Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, KBS Symphony, Moscow Virtuosi, Bilkent Symphony, Welsh National Opera, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra at Zurich Tonhalle, with München Symphoniker at Herkulessaal and Prinzregententheater. She also performed at Royal Albert Hall with Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Classic FM Live), le Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Hofer Symphoniker and Stavanger Symphony.
In 2012, Korea’s national television channel KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) made a documentary on her on their program “Global Success Story” and in 2013, a dream came true for HJ Lim as she has been invited by her country after many years of exclusive concert activities outside of South Korea. She played at the Seoul Arts Center receiving warm acclamations from her compatriots and since then, she regularly returns to play in her home country.
In Japan, she is also an active performer and she has renewed the complete Beethoven Sonatas cycle in eight concerts in Tokyo at Asahi Hall, each concert has been broadcasted live on Live stream. Record Geijutsu wrote of the cycle, “HJ Lim accomplished this most impossible of challenges...Her gift comes from the heavens”.
In recital, HJ Lim performed at Théâtre du Palais Royal in Paris, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, London Wigmore Hall, Sala Verdi in Milan, Victoria Hall in Geneva and the Stadtcasino. Her festival appearances include Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Festival de Musique de Menton, Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, Beethoven Festival Chicago and the Annecy Classical Festival, and at the Dublin International Piano Festival
Highlights of Lim’s recent calendar include concerts with Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony at Suntory Hall, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater, orchestra of Valencia, at Festival International Piano de Biarritz, Festival of Flanders, Pianos festival de Lille, recitals at the Grand théâtre de Provence, the Philharmonie Essen, and Osaka Symphony Hall.
Since the release of her book « Le Son du Silence », HJ Lim is invited by the schools to share her passion for classical music, her life path and the importance of the pursuit of dreams with young students. She’s also invited to give concert-conferences for a wider public in search of spirituality. She is the ambassador of the foundations Graine de Génie and Allegry Philanthropy. In 2017, the Swiss leading newspaper “Le Temps” has nominated HJ Lim as one of the 100 personalities that make Switzerland and the Korean National Assembly Television made a documentary on her as a “Super Korean that changes the world”.
[...] But superiority soon made itself felt. It looked highly artistic when the soloist, Ms Lim, occasionally used her free hand in a grand gesture to pluck sounds out of the air. But this is more than just showmanship. She plays with the greatest virtuosity, with a beautifully graduated palette of keyboard colours. She drew an expressive cantabile from the piano at the beginning of the slow movement. When the orchestra joined in, you felt surrounded by a velvety warmth - until the players plunged into the Presto with the requisite bustle. Even faster was Ms Lim’s encore - her own arrangement of a Korean folk song.
Having a recorded Beethoven sonata cycle to your credit at 24 is quite an accomplishment. She brings distinctive ideas and unabashed impetuosity to these touchstone works...she boasts dazzling technique and plays with dash and spontaneity."
“Here is a new artist swept up in the moment. In striving to project the pathbreaking elements and impetuosity of the music, Ms. Lim plays with...rhapsodic freedom
New York Times, Anthony Tommasini
“HJ Lim tackles these pieces with invention as much as she does with respect. Volume two ought to be another triumph.”
BBC Music review
HJ Lim’s interpretation of the Fugue has an electrifying vitality...these first recordings show a spirited virtuoso with a high level of structural awareness.”
Fono Forum Magazine