Youngest ever Van Cliburn winner moved Marin Alsop to tears with this rapturous Rachmaninov

20 June 2022, 17:52 | Updated: 20 June 2022, 18:00

By Siena Linton

The legendary conductor was seen wiping away tears as Yunchan Lim thundered through the finale of Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto.

Six competitors went head-to-head at the weekend in the final round of the sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

Over four days from 14 to 18 June, each of the finalists brought two concertos to the stage to perform with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of legendary conductor Marin Alsop.

18-year-old South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim was one of three finalists to select Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto, which he performed during the third concert of the final round on Friday 17 June.

Throughout the competition, Lim performed a wide range of works by Bach to Beethoven, Chopin to Scriabin, including a highly praised rendition of Liszt’s Transcendental Études. But it was his final performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 which would seal his victory.

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Lim stormed his way through the finale of Rachmaninov’s mighty work, as Marin Alsop attentively directed the orchestra in keeping with the young pianist’s impressive pace. Alsop could be seen nodding in approval as Lim expertly transitioned from dramatic cadenzas to the sweeping Romantic themes that Rachmaninov is known and loved for.

As Lim finished the piece in a sensational flourish, the world-class conductor could be seen wiping tears from her eyes.

The two performers hugged in a touching moment, and as Lim went to thank the first row of violinists, Alsop could be seen both nodding her head in approval, and shaking it in disbelief, as she and the orchestra marvelled at the young talent. Watch Lim’s full performance below.

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Marin Alsop herself was jury chair of the competition, on a panel that also included celebrated names of the piano world, including Stephen Hough, who was recently recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours, and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Speaking to Classic FM, Alsop said, “What a joy to be part of this inspiring and compelling performance. Yunchan is that rare artist who brings profound musicality and prodigious technique organically together. The fact that he is only 18 years old is truly awe-inspiring and gives me great hope for the future”.

Lim’s selection as a finalist already made a mark in the prestigious competition’s history books, as the youngest competitor to progress to that stage of the competition, and on Saturday 18 June it was announced that he had been awarded the gold medal.

As winner of the competition, Lim will receive $100,000 (£81,660) and three years of additional support in his career. Second place went to Russian pianist Anna Geniushene, 31, with Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni, 28, taking the bronze medal.