Ravel • Scriabin
It takes a while to ‘tune in’ to HJ Lim’s style. Her playing of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales seems a perverse denial of its dance rhythms, the opening hammered chords reduced to spasms. Yet by the final track, Ravel’s La valse, I was almost totally won over. Lim here presents a brilliant rendering of an etching and its textures: dark, billowing fury with steely glints, and moments of seductive, glittering lusciousness. Again, though, there is little sense of dance rhythm: instead, the ebb and flow of something as great and inhuman as the sea.
What drives Lim’s performances, it seems, are not rhythms but harmonies and textures: hence her otherwise weird treatment of Ravel’s Sonatine, and her nervous tremors in response to the deadlocked chords of the opening ‘Modéré’ in Valses nobles. This approach overlooks not only the rhythms and hemiolas of individual waltzes, but also misses metrical patterns half-recalled from one waltz to another.
Lim’s edgy, mercurial style suits Scriabin better, whether unfolding the Fourth Sonata’s delicious harmonies, or portraying the shocking contrast between Two Poems. Her Fifth Sonata, though, is so tense and percussive that its cosmic upsurges sound like tantrums; and her performance of Scriabin’s A flat major Waltz is short on charm or the grand sweep found by more extrovert pianists (Vladimir Sofronitzky most effortlessly).