Impressive Polish pianist - and chamber music at the White House
New York and Washington
Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw before his 20th birthday, in 1975. I know his work from several DG recordings of Mozart and Chopin. Excellent as they are, however, the recordings give no real indication of the impact Mr. Zimerman makes in recital.Skip to next paragraph
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A recent Carnegie Hall program - he's played in the States before - included the Brahms Third Sonata, four Szymanowski mazurkas, and the Chopin Third Sonata. A week later he performed the Liszt Concerto No. 2 in A major with the New York Philharmonic, under Zubin Mehta's baton.
Mr. Zimerman is not a large man. He does not elicit from his instrument a particularly large tone. But from the moderately loud to the very quietest, his subtlety in the exploration of dynamic and coloristic variety is exceptional. He also knows how to compensate for a lack of thundering fortissimo tones.
Were his way with colors and nuance his only strong points, Mr. Zimerman would be unusual in this artistically bland and rather loud day and age. He plays with a searching insight far beyond his years.
He is fascinated with the pieces he plays, and he makes his listener fascinated as well. He has deeply and extensively pondered the composer's intentions, the specific tools the composer used for the piece at hand, and - perhaps most important but generally most elusive - he understands that each composer had his own language and color, and he strives constantly to give the listener the fullest possible sense of that color.
Mr. Zimerman's Brahms was particularly felicitous, since the composer's sonatas tend to elude so many pianists. Szymanowski is not a composer who pops up on many programs; Mr. Zimerman's deep-felt performances of the mazurkas whetted the appetite for more. And the Chopin was at once elegant, exciting, and heartrending. One is constantly aware of a unique musical sensibility at work.
Mr. Zimerman made his recital an evocative and thrilling event, full of spontaneity and that sort of reverence that exhilarates rather than stultifies. He approached the Liszt concerto not as a digital showcase but as a haunting piece of music to be savored and explored - now luxuriating in limpid beauty, now striding through militaristic fanfares, now probing the deepest emotions. He respects the much-maligned composer.
Mr. Mehta gave him robust support, and, at several key moments, matched Mr. Zimerman's contemplative mood handsomely. The Philharmonic seemed sparked by the pianist's style as well, and seemed to pick up its artistic clues from him. Pavarotti on TV
A few words are in order about the Pavarotti concert telecast on PBS last week. The favored tenor has been in the news because of his many cancellations (the Met, Covent Garden, Chicago Lyric, among others), and for being the victim of booing at La Scala.
At Avery Fisher Hall, the tenor was slightly off form in the opening arias from ''Rigoletto.'' As the evening progressed, however, his voice strengthened even as the audience's weakened. By program's end, the reception was no longer the delirious roar that greeted his opening moments, though the singing was markedly superior.