With themes that touch on nature, emotions, and the passage of time, Yiruma's gentle piano compositions bridge spare new age atmospheres and classical program music. Released the same year as his debut, his second album, 2001's First Love, included "River Flows in You." Based on an isolated melodic line and minimal left-hand accompaniment representative of Yiruma's style, it charted around the world and became a favorite for television and advertising placements. After nearly a dozen albums, The Best: Reminiscent 10th Anniversary appeared on Sony in 2011. An edition of the record with rearranged, newly recorded versions of fan favorites topped the Billboard classical and new age albums charts in 2020.
Born on February 15, 1978 in Seoul, South Korea, Yiruma (born Lee Ru-Ma) began playing the piano at the age of five. He moved to London in 1988 to enroll at the Purcell School of Music. After graduating in 1997, he studied composition at King's College London, completing his degree in June of 2000. He released his first two albums of solo piano music, Love Scene and First Love, on the Stomp Music label in 2001. "River Flows in You" from the latter record became his signature piece, not only reaching the Top 20 of the singles charts in countries like Germany and Austria but appearing on television, in advertisements, and in various other media settings for years to come.
Yiruma next composed the scores for a pair of 2002 films: Oasis, a romance, and Doggy Poo, a claymation feature. Both received soundtrack releases, with Oasis' titled Oasis and Yiruma. His third studio album, 2003's From the Yellow Room, offered another popular track, "Kiss the Rain." Containing a set of improvisations among prepared pieces, Nocturnal Lights They Scatter followed in 2004, and the next year's Destiny of Love featured reworked tracks including two that were rearranged for orchestra. He delivered Live at Hoam Art Hall and the original album Poemusic before the end of the 2005. Yiruma contributed an album's worth of tracks to the four-part soundtrack of the KBS drama Spring Waltz that arrived on Seoul Records in in early 2006. Subtitled One Day Diary 19th September, the religion-themed H.I.S. Monologue followed that November. He returned with the studio album P.N.O.N.I. in 2008.
In 2010, German DJ Alex Christensen, aka Jasper Forks, further boosted the popularity of "River Flows in You" with a remix of the track, and a year later, Sony celebrated the tenth anniversary of Yiruma's recording debut with the collection The Best: Reminiscent 10th Anniversary. By that time, the pianist had established a habit of releasing piano books to accompany his albums, with an acknowledgment that he was writing music that many people could play. During his live shows, he would often bring an audience member on-stage to improvise with him.
Yiruma's first album of original material for Sony, Stay in Memory, saw release in mid-2012, with the studio album Blind Film and the Stomp Music collection Healing Piano close behind in 2013. Credited to "Yiruma and Friends," 2014's Atmosfera included versions of his songs performed with guests. An album simply titled Piano was issued by Sony in 2016, and Yiruma returned with Frame in 2017. He went back to the studio for fresh takes on fan favorites for a 2020 reissue of his 10th anniversary album. The Best: Reminiscent 10th Anniversary went to number one on the Billboard Classical Albums chart in 2020, also topping the New Age Albums chart. Around that time, another best-of release, First Love: Piano Music, hit number five on the former and seven on the latter. In the meantime, Yiruma issued the five-track EP Room with a View. It arrived on Mind Tailor Music/Universal that May. ~ Marcy Donelson