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Krystian Zimerman – An Exclusive Radio Interview with the Enigmatic Polish Pianist

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):

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |


Chopin’s 200th Anniversary, March 1 2010

Celebrate one of the greatest piano composers in history, FrĂ©dĂ©ric Chopin, with us today by listening to the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman’s performance of Ballade no 2 in F-major while following along in Chopin’s autograph manuscript (available for free from pianostreet.com throughout the year 2010).
Or if you are up for an even more exciting birthday experience, print out the manuscript and play from it (and then let us know by posting a reply if that gave you any new thoughs or insights into this piece)!

Click the sheet music to open the printable autograph score (3.9Mb ) in a new browser window or right click “Save target as…” to download the file.

Please share your comments and personal thoughts about Chopin’s music here and let your friends and colleagues know about this blog post by making use of the “Share/Save” button below.

Happy birthday Frédéric! We love your music!
And thanks Krystian for your extraordinary rendition of the Ballade!
/The Piano Street Team

Related posts:
Poland throws bash for Chopin’s 200th
Sa Chen plays Chopin
Tiempo’s Revolutionary Thirds Equals Three?
The Great Arthur Rubinstein Revisited


Zimerman and Bernstein in Brahms Second Piano Concerto

Between 1981 and 1984 Leonard Bernstein recorded nearly all of Brahms´s orchestral works with the Wiener Philharmoniker to honor the 150th anniversary of the composer´s birth in 1983. As an example of the unique Zimerman/Bernstein collaboration, here´s the second movement of the second Piano Concerto in B flat major Op. 83:

The outstanding Polish pianist, Krystian Zimerman won 1st prize at the international Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warszaw in 1975, which launched his international career. Krystian Zimerman then played with great success in Munich, London, Paris and Vienna. In 1976 he was soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker. He made his first American appearance in 1978, and subsequently toured throughout the world to great critical acclaim. He has performed with many exceptional orchestras and worked with some of the world’s most outstanding conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Herbert von Karajan, Bernard Haitink, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, AndrĂ© Previn, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and Simon Rattle.

Victory in a significant competition does not always guarantee a blooming professional career. In fact, as the number of competitions constantly expands, instances of this are becoming increasingly rare. Publicly expressing his reluctance to piano competitions and the increasing standardisation of the performer ideals, Krystian Zimerman’s actions are deeply thought out and carefully planned. As a result, they are fewer and farther between. Zimerman generally avoids the limelight, limits the number of live performances he gives and records relatively infrequently. As a result, each artistic endeavor he decides upon is awaited eagerly and closely watched. On April 27, Zimerman created a furor in his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles when he announced this would be his last performance in America because of the nation’s military policies overseas:

Article, Los Angeles Times


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