Major label in copycat career move

Major label in copycat career move


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2011

No. make that Korea move. So easy to misspell such nouns.

Five months after Deutsche Grammophon signed a 10-CD deal with the Seoul Philharmonic, EMI has roused itself from months of torpor and management change to announce the signing of a Korean pianist.

She’s HJ Lim, based in France and brought to market by HarrisonParrott, the folks who launched Hélène Grimaud (make that 15 ships).

Here she is.

South Korean, where 18 percent of all record sales are classical, has become the biggest growth market for declining classical labels.

Here’s the press release:









“This exceptionally gifted artist ignited an incomparably fiery pianistic space…with super-virtuoso sound images, spectacular and extremely bewitching…an incredible enchantment of possibilities of pianistic expressions, subtle and grandiose, magically performed by the phenomenal virtuoso.” Basellandschaftlicher Zeitung


Introducing HJ Lim – short film



21ST SEPTEMBER, 2011: EMI Classics is thrilled to announce that dynamic pianist HJ Lim has signed an exclusive recording contract with the label. Her first project under the new agreement will be a spectacular recording of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. The sonatas, which have been curated by Lim into eight themes, will be released as four 2CD sets for release in January, April, July and October 2012.  A complete box set with a bonus DVD will also be available from October 2012.


Born in South Korea, HJ Lim (Hyun-Jung), 24, emigrated on her own to study in France at the age of 12.  At 15, she became youngest person to ever earn Diplome d’Etudes Musicales Complete (Normandy). She continued her studies, and graduated with First Prize and Highest Distinction from the Conservatoire National de Rouen and the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris. In 2007, she was awarded First Prize by unanimous decision at the FLAME International Piano Competition in Paris.


HJ, a Yamaha exclusive artist, first came to the world’s attention when – in order for her family to be able to watch her perform whilst they were home in Korea – she uploaded a video of a recital to YouTube. This personal act, designed to bridge the geographic divide between her native and adopted homes, generated unprecedented interest and nearly half a million views.


On joining EMI Classics, HJ writes, “Having grown up with the recordings of Callas, Cortot, Cziffra, Samson François and the Beethoven sonatas of Schnabel, EMI has represented classical music paradise for me. I am thrilled to be entering this paradise.”


Andrew Cornall, Vice President of A&R for EMI Classics, says, “It is rare to come across a young artist not only with real artistic maturity and depth of intellectual thought but also with a charismatic and virtuosic way of imparting both those talents. HJ Lim is one these artists and it will be a pleasure for EMI to travel her musical journeys with her.”


Maggie O’Herlihy, HJ’s manager at HarrisonParrott adds, “I am delighted HJ Lim has made EMI Classics her recording home. The range of projects she will tackle over the coming years with the support and vision of the EMI team will give this extraordinary artist the ideal platform on which to reach her ever growing number of followers worldwide.”


For her first recording, HJ has taken on one of the most monumental challenges in classical music, the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. Recorded on Yamaha’s Flagship CFX concert grand piano in July and August 2011, Lim has grouped the sonatas into eight themes including The Eternal Feminine, Assertion of an Inflexible Personality, Resignation and Action, Extremes in Collision and Destiny. She first performed the complete cycle over eight days in Paris during August 2010. Of the Beethoven Sonatas, Lim writes:

“A theoretical analysis of Beethoven’s sonatas has been done many times; my own emphasizes rather the emotional, human, spiritual and psychological. This is why I view these sonatas by Beethoven as the most intense diary, in which genius expresses, or even illustrates, all the facets of a life that is sometimes sublimated, and idealized, and often deeply moving by its realism.”


  • First reaction: wow!

    Second reaction: after reading the bit about grouping the sonatas into themes such as “The Eternal Feminine”, oh no!

    Third reaction: “a theoretical analysis of Beethoven’s sonatas has been done many times”, sure, but it’s only a GOOD analysis if it also engages with the emotional, human, etc.

    Fourth reaction: I really do want to hear this version of the sonatas…