Yunchan Lim’s Chopin isn’t as good as his Liszt or Rach

Grade: B- In 2022 the South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim became, at 18, the youngest winner of the Van Cliburn competition, displaying a virtuosity that stunned the judges. You could see conductor Marin Alsop’s astonishment as he bounded through the finale of Rach 3, combining accuracy and swirling fantasy at daredevil speed. It’s been viewed nearly 15 million times on YouTube. In truth, though, he’d have had to screw up badly not to win, because he’d already dispatched Liszt’s fiendish Transcendental Études with perfect articulation and mercurial wit; in places he out-dazzled even the current master of this repertoire, Daniil Trifonov. Decca snapped him up and here’s his first studio

The greatest female composer you’ve never heard of

One of the most intriguing piano concertos of the late 19th century is unknown to the public – and no wonder: so far as I can work out, it has only been recorded once, on a speciality label devoted to neglected French repertoire. As I write this, there are only 11 copies available from Amazon and I recommend that you grab one quickly, because the Second Piano Concerto of Marie Jaëll (1846-1925) demands repeated listening. If you want proof women of the era could move beyond well-carpentered clichés, listen to Marie Jaëll The concerto’s harmonic language is superficially conventional: sweeping tunes decorated by arm-swinging arpeggios. But the melodies are lopsided

Why has the work of Franz Liszt fallen into such neglect?

In 1875, Franz Liszt told a pupil of the kiss of consecration – the Weihekuss – that Beethoven bestowed upon him more than fifty years earlier. After watching the young Hungarian prodigy play works by Ries, Bach and Beethoven himself, he kissed Liszt on the forehead and said: ‘Go! You are one of the fortunate ones! For you will give joy and happiness to many other people.’ Liszt isn’t giving joy to many people these days. Take this year’s BBC Proms, which feature only one piece by Liszt, compared to two by Aaron Copland, four by Dora Pejacevic, and six by Samuel Taylor-Coleridge. Over the past decade, Liszt has appeared

For fans of neglected, niche and uncool music, lockdown has been a blessing

When this whole mess is over, there’ll be a shortish MA thesis — or at least a blog post — to be had from analysing classical music’s evolving response to the crisis. Already, looking back, distinct phases are emerging from the viral fog. Phase One: the Banana Bread Apocalypse — that first lockdown, when Jamie Oliver was telling us to smoosh up frozen peas and pretend it was pesto, and phonecam footage of a cellist playing Bach in the spare bedroom felt like a kind of miracle. Phase Two: orchestras working out what they could actually do while socially distanced and audienceless. Cue a spike in online performances of works

Alan Rusbridger on the joys of four-hand piano

One of the few social activities not yet prohibited under lockdown laws is four-handed piano playing. I don’t mean sitting side-by-side at one keyboard. That would risk infection and, if snitched on, the possibility of sharing a prison cell with Piers Corbyn. No, the four hands must be divided equally across two pianos, and the instruments must be end-to-end. Safely isolated in this manner — perhaps three or four metres apart — the ivories can be tickled for as long as you want. I’ve been a devoted four-hand piano player all my life — due entirely to the limitations of the two I was born with. On one keyboard I