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.
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.
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.
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
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."
This is playing in the grand manner… Ozawa and the orchestra are behind the soloist in all this and the deciso element is fully realized. But don't let me imply a lack of finesse; not only do lyrical sections sing with subtlety, the big passages also are shapely… In the gorgeously grisly Totentanz, both music and playing should make your hair stand on end. - C.H.; Gramophone
In the notes for this release, pianist Krystian Zimerman has distinctly unkind things to say about his 1983 recording of Brahms' First Concerto, complaining first about the weak piano and then about the muffled recording. About the eccentric conductor the incredibly slow Leonard Bernstein the idiomatic orchestra the unbelievably beautiful Vienna Philharmonic or his own sub par playing uncharacteristically heavy and unbearably ponderous Zimerman is understandably silent. The great speaks for itself and the less said of the less than great, the better.
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. The main difference, I think, is the actual sound. From DG we get a closer, riper sonority, with Zimerman's piano much more forwardly placed. Both orchestra and piano are more distanced on the RCA recording, especially Ax's piano. This, together with Ax's lighter, more translucent semiquaver figuration (and sometimes his greater willingness to stand back and merely accompany—as in certain episodes in the F minor Concerto's finale) often conjures up visions of Chopin himself at the keyboard, and we know he was often criticized for insufficiently strong projection.