Krystian Zimerman

Profile

Renowned for combining expressive originality with clarity and precision, Krystian Zimerman has taken the possibilities of piano performance to new heights. Born in Poland, Zimerman began studying piano seriously at the age of seven, winning the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition at the age of eighteen. The following year he made his recording debut. Throughout his career, he has recorded and performed with many of the greatest conductors, including Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death (1999), he formed the Polish Festival Orchestra, bringing together talented Polish musicians to focus on the performance of Chopin’s work. Zimerman’s extraordinary artistry is inextricably linked to his deep technical understanding of his instrument. He knows every facet of the piano’s mechanism and believes that, "pianists should be interested in their instruments." He tunes and assembles his own pianos and has a thorough knowledge of their mechanisms and acoustics, which supports his exquisite and delicate playing. He combines his natural talent and technical skills with his desire to understand the great composers’ works; reading their letters, searching for clues that unlock the problems that musicians sometimes face. After long periods of intense study and reflection he will then record - most recently, Beethoven’s complete piano concertos to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, released to great critical acclaim.

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Krystian Zimerman is considered to be one of the finest pianists of our time, renowned for combining expressive originality with clarity and precision, taking the possibilities of piano performance to new heights.
Born in Poland in 1956, Zimerman grew up in a household where musicians, led by his father, would regularly gather to enjoy playing music together. He started to play the piano from the age of five and from seven studied in earnest with the Polish pianist, Andrzej Jasinski. Prodigiously talented, he even appeared on Polish television age six, performing some of his own compositions.
In 1975, when he was just eighteen years old, he won the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, something he still can’t quite believe, and the following year he made his recording debut with the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label.
His collaborations with many of the greatest classical music conductors, including Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa have, over many years, created exceptional music - both live and recorded – as well as influencing Zimerman himself; “each conductor changed my life.”
He describes conductor and composer Bernstein, "the most interesting musician I have met in my life", and their close fifteen-year friendship continued even after Bernstein’s death, with Zimerman performing Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, in major cities around the world in 2018 to mark what would have been his hundredth birthday.
In 1998, he formed the Polish Festival Orchestra, playing thirty-nine concerts in major cities globally to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death (1999). Composed of musicians of Polish origin, he was deeply involved with raising funds and finding instruments so it could tour, showcasing one of the composers that Zimerman is passionate about and one whose work he has profound knowledge of.
Knowledge plays a key role for Zimerman. He studies to ensure that every aspect of his art is at its best and most authentic. In his recording career, he has always been deliberate and decerning, only going into the studio after a long period of intense study and reflection. He builds his understanding of the great composers’ works; reading their letters, searching for clues that unlock the problems that musicians sometimes face.
“We are playing composers like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Stravinsky, all these composers had completely different instruments – completely.” He has an extensive knowledge and understanding of pianos – his own and those used over the centuries and suggests that, “pianists should be interested in their instruments.” His eye for detail extends to the acoustics of concert halls, adjusting his piano to the acoustic landscape of each particular hall – ensuring that his performance will sound the best possible.
In 2020, he and conductor Simon Rattle recorded Beethoven’s complete piano concertos to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, released to great critical acclaim.
Zimerman played in every major city collaborating with 139 different conductors. Zimerman plans to continue to play the piano for as long as he is able and encourages those who want to follow in his footsteps saying, “If you really love music, something will come out that is unique, which reveals your soul, which might not receive the first prize in a competition or receive a good review, but trust that your intuition is right. It is a very important tool along with knowledge and of course, education.”
Sound advice from his own life and personal experience.

Biography

  1956 Born in Zabrze, Poland
  1961 Began to studied piano from his father
  1962 Played first recital in his hometown, Zabrze
  1963 Played his composition in TV program
Studied under Andrzej Jasiński at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music, Poland
  1975 Won the 9th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition and best performance of mazurkas, polonaise, sonata and concerto
  1976 First recording of Frederic Chopin’s waltz for Deutsche Grammophon
  1977 Graduated from Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music
Recording of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet works, Les Noces with Leonard Bernstein
  1978 First visit to Japan for a recital tour
  1980 Performed with Herbert von Karajan at the Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele
  1981 Migrated to Swtzerland
  1985 Best young musician of the year from the Accademia Chigiana, Italy
  1986 Recording of Liszt: Piano Concert No. 1 & No. 2 and Totentanz with Boston Symphony conducted by Seiji Ozawa
  1988 Premiere of Witold Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto with the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lutoslawski at the Salzburg Festival
  1989 Concerts in Brussel, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Strasboug, Lyon, Florence
  1990 Recording of complete Beethoven’s piano concerto with Vienna Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein
  1991 Recording of Ravel’s piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez
Tour as conductor with Padova Orchestra (Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto) in 10 Italian Cities
  1992 Concert on 8th May 1992 in Avery Fisher Hall was 100Th concerts in United States
  1994 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark
  1995 Recording of Bartok’s piano concerto with Chicago Symphony conducted by Pierre Boulez
  1996 Teaching post of his own class at the Musik Academie Basel
  1998 Organized the Polish Festival Orchestra of young players for the 150th anniversary of Chopin's death
Recording of Rachmaninov conducted by Seiji Ozawa
  2005 Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur
Honorary doctorate of Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music
  2006 Gold Medal for Merit to Culture, Gloria Artis, Poland
  2010 Recital in Europe and Japan for the cerebration of the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth
Presenter of the Sonata Prize, a special prize of International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition
  2013 Order of Polonia Restitua Commandeur Cross with Star, Poland
International Festival of Contemporary Music, Warsaw Autumn
  2015 Honorary doctor, The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music
  2017 Solo Album, Schubert: Piano Sonata Nos. 20 and 21 for the first time in 25 years
  2017-18 Concert tour at 15 cities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein
  2019 Polish Arts Festival 2019 in Japan
  2020 Recording the complete piano concertos in 30 years with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle on the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth