19 March 2021
By Ellie Palmer
Zimerman features on the cover of issue 119 of Pianist
Where do we start?
The Polish piano legend is considered one of history's greatest pianists – and one of the most likeable –and there are endless reasons why.
We take a look at four reasons to love the Pianist cover star below.
1. He transports his own piano to every recital
Zimerman. © Mark Allan
Anywhere Zimerman goes, his trusted piano follows.
This is a practice which has made audiences more aware of the complexities and capabilities of the instrument. Performing on his own familiar instrument, combined with his piano-building expertise (acquired in Katowice and developed through close co-operation with Steinway’s in Hamburg), helps him minimise any distractions from purely musical issues.
2. He often works through the night
One would expect a world-class pianist to work extremely hard to get to where they are. But what one might NOT expect is for said pianist to work through the night on a regular basis.
"Nobody would believe it if they saw what I am doing at nights with the sound and with all kinds of tricks that I learned in the last 50 years," Zimerman says in his interview with Pianist.
It's most obvious in the polish legend's interview inside issue 119 that he has a huge passion for customising his keyboards to match the principles of the music he is playing, so much so, he once spent a night 'sawing through one keyboard' in preparation for recording the Beethoven Concertos.
3. Stepping in and conducting his own recordings
Krystian Zimerman (left) and Leonard Bernstein, 1989. The latter passed away a year later, leaving Zimerman to conduct the rest of the Beethoven concertos himself. © Mezzo TV
Back in the late 1980s, Zimerman was recording Beethoven's Third, Fourth and Fifth concertos. These were being conducted by none other than Leonard Bernstein.
After Bernstein's death in 1990, Zimerman resorted to conducting the First and Second concertos from the piano himself.
Whilst he admits he wasn't happy with many aspects of the recording, it taught him a handful of lessons, including always travelling with his own instrument from that point on.
4. Bringing young people closer to Beethoven
Zimerman sees a lot of similarities between the Beethoven of the 18th and 19th century, and the young generations of the 21st century.
"This guy [Beethoven] had a fantastic sense of humour, from what I read of his notes,' says Zimerman in his interview.
‘For all these passages in the finale of the First Concerto where there is humour, where there is wit, where there is sometimes something cynical, sometimes something grotesque, I was trying even to exaggerate this, in order to show it especially to younger people and bring them closer to this guy, who is not so different from some young people today.’
You can read Krystian Zimerman's full interview inside issue 119 of Pianist.
Main image: ©Mark Allan