Notes and Editorial Reviews
Krystian Zimerman (pn)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 001148609 (DVD: 103)
Scherzo No. 2 in b?. Nocturne in F?,
Ballades: Nos. 1–4. Fantasie,
Barcarolle in F?.
I will say right off
that this DVD contains some of the most magnificent piano-playing that I have ever heard. Zimerman’s pianistic subtlety matches note-for-note his deep involvement with the music, which seems to grow out of him, creating itself as he plays. I completely concur with the British critic Jeremy Siepmann, who writes in his booklet note: “The range of color, the extent of tonal control, the layering of contrasting levels and characters of sound on display here are as phenomenal as the sheer unalloyed beauty of tone Zimerman produces, from the softest to the loudest….The recital is a gold mine of great piano playing.”
The filming, which took place in 1987 in the Rosenhügel Studio in Vienna, holds up very well, and the audio quality is superb. Zimerman is dressed formally, and one gets the feeling of a recital experience thanks to appropriate camera fade-outs between pieces. But there are no entrances and exits, no bows, and no audience. The total emphasis is on the music.
Zimerman is known to travel with his own piano and to oversee its constant regulation, for he has made an intensive study of piano construction and upkeep. Often during this film he stares into the instrument as if to persuade it to produce the sounds that he knows it can. The result is a special kind of dialogue between willing partners.
Some might imagine from my above remarks that Zimerman is a rather cold, calculating artist whose playing lacks spontaneity. But the very opposite is true. These are performances that burn with white heat, even in the quietest moments of the Nocturne and the Impromptus. In every piece there is a musical vision, an inner intensity that begins before the first note sounds and continues without interruption—through rests and fermatas—to the release of the final note.
Zimerman’s Chopin has immense vitality, with no hint of the salon or of mere prettiness. Every physical gesture, grand or minimal, has its musical
, and to watch this kind of playing, whether close up or in profile, provides a unique master class. One sees his simultaneous and deft use of the
and sustaining pedals on the opening octave of the Barcarolle, which permits Chopin’s indicated degree of
over a pedal-point on a modern piano; one sees how he consistently leans his entire upper body backward from the pelvis in the quietest passages, to take all unnecessary weight off the keys; one listens with him to the totally fading sound of the opening octaves of Schubert’s First Impromptu; one sees the razor-like precision of close fingerwork in the codas of all four Ballades; and one sees and hears how the complete release of arm weight on sustained notes and octaves affects their sound. The filming, by the renowned British director Humphrey Burton, is a mixture of extended shots from the left, the right, and above, none of which intrudes upon or anticipates the music.
There have been many fine recorded performances of all these famous works before—I especially like Ivan Moravec and Murray Perahia in the Ballades and Radu Lupu and Mitsuko Uchida in the Impromptus—but Zimerman’s playing is absolutely in a class by itself. This DVD should be required viewing for all advanced piano students, and it should sustain real pianophiles through repeated viewings for years to come.
FANFARE: Charles Timbrell
Directed by Humphrey Burton/Horant H. Hohlfeld
DVD-VIDEO NTSC 073 4449 |G|H|
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1
Picture Format: 4:3
A production of UNITEL, Munich
Works on This Recording
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