Tom Service presents a programme devoted to a rare interview with the celebrated and often controversial pianist Krystian Zimerman. In an extensive and wide-ranging discussion, he talks about everything from his relationship with audiences and the recording process, to politics, pianos and why he can only listen to his own performances in the car.
Born in Poland in 1956, Zimerman became the youngest-ever winner of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1975, before studying intensively with the great Artur Rubinstein. Highly self-critical, Zimerman gives relatively few concert performances and has not released a solo recording for nearly two decades.
In this programme
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Krystian Zimerman: An exclusive radio interview with the enigmatic Polish pianist.
Tom Service went to Basel, Switzerland, to meet up with Krystian Zimerman earlier this year to talk with him about his very personal and passionate philosophy of music.
In the lead up to Radio 3's Chopin Experience (17th / 18th May 2008), and Music Matters' Chopin in Poland edition during that weekend, this special programme offers a rare opportunity to hear from a pianist who has followed in the footsteps of his virtuoso predecessor.
Winner of the 1975 Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition, Zimerman went on to perform with a variety of stars from Bernstein and Rubinstein, to Abbado and Rattle. He now lives and teaches in Basel at the Academy of Music and has achieved cult status amongst piano aficionados.
In a candid discussion, Zimerman explains how the piano is like a human being to him - he owns six instruments, and is obsessive about choosing the right keyboard for the repertoire he is practicing or performing. He reveals how he is unhappy with recordings and even advises against buying his own records.
Zimerman also reflects on the unique relationship between performer and audience; the importance of developing a rapport with an orchestra through intensive rehearsals; his fear of core piano repertoire, including Beethoven's Op.111 sonata, which he will be performing in 3 UK recitals at the end of this month; and the dangers of programming concerts too far in advance.
In addition, he touches on his need to express his political viewpoint on the concert platform, and the criticism this has stirred up.
His opinions on a whole range of musical issues are intriguing, and his love of music and its boundless power to communicate is self-evident.
You can hear Zimerman perform Bach's Partita No.2 in C minor, BWV 826; Beethoven's Sonata in C minor, Op.111; Brahms' Klavierstucke, Op.19 and Szymanowski's Variations on a Polish Theme, Op.10 in three UK performances at the end of this month, starting at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 23rd May, then The Anvil, Basingstoke on 25th May and finally at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 27th May.