Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman has been something of an anti-Gould, avoiding recordings in favor of live performances. This recording of Schubert's last two piano sonatas was done with a custom keyboard with which, Zimerman says, "the hammer strikes a different point of the string, enhancing its ability to sustain a singing sound – though it does also set up different overtones and the piano might sound strangely tuned."
Few pianists have lived as long with Leonard Bernstein’s imposing and virtuoso Second Symphony as Krystian Zimerman. In the 1980s he often performed it with the composer as conductor, and he brings a wealth of experience to his playing. Less impetuous than some, Zimerman’s playing is wonderfully deep—he’s thought hard about the seething emotional life of the work, inspired by W.H. Auden’s long, angst-ridden poem. Rattle and the great Berlin Philharmonic add further depth plus a beautiful patina to the sound, and the recording is spectacularly well-handled with a real sense of perspective.
It was an eminently sensible decision to couple Zimerman's previously separate Chopin concertos on a single CD. The Ax/Ormandy/RCA disc is the only rival as a coupling, so let me say at once that in different moods I would be equally happy with either.
"Both Zimerman and Bernstein are involved and involving here … a rapt intensity [in the slow movement]" (Gramophone on No.1). "Bernstein and Zimerman have established a masterly understanding of the work, and their artistic symbiosis is inpressive" (Gramophone on No.2).
Krystian Zimerman - the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw at the age of eighteen – giving his Homage to Chopin and Schubert. As a brilliant musician, a renown specialist in Romantic music Krystian Zimerman combines all the prerequisites for an authorative interpretation of Chopin´s works.
This well recorded disc from 1987 delivers truly exciting performances of all three works in typically crisp manner by Zimerman. Ozawa and the Boston orchestra give excellent support. The emphasis here is on excitement largely created by fast speeds delivered with clarity. The more gentler parts of all three works are played with due regard to sensitivity but there is no denying that in these recordings these works are seen as primarily as virtuoso display works and that is what we are given.
Leonard Bernstein was slated to conduct the entire set of these piano concertos. At the time of his death, however, he had completed the third, fourth and fifth concertos only. In tribute to Bernstein, Krystian Zimerman and the Vienna Philharmonic recorded the remaining concertos without a conductor.