Tom Service went to Basel, Switzerland, to meet up with Krystian Zimerman to talk with him about his very personal and passionate philosophy of music.
Winner of the 1975 Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition, Zimerman went on to perform with a variety of stars from Bernstein and Rubinstein, to Abbado and Rattle. He now lives and teaches in Basel at the Academy of Music and has achieved cult status amongst piano aficionados.
In a candid discussion, Zimerman explains how the piano is like a human being to him – he owns six instruments, and is obsessive about choosing the right keyboard for the repertoire he is practicing or performing. He reveals how he is unhappy with recordings and even advises against buying his own records. Zimerman also reflects on the unique relationship between performer and audience; the importance of developing a rapport with an orchestra through intensive rehearsals; his fear of core piano repertoire, including Beethoven’s Op.111 sonata and the dangers of programming concerts too far in advance. In addition, he touches on his need to express his political viewpoint on the concert platform, and the criticism this has stirred up. His opinions on a whole range of musical issues are intriguing, and his love of music and its boundless power to communicate is self-evident.
(from BBC Radio 3)
Listen to the interview (45 minutes in 5 parts):