Krystian Zimerman joined forces with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra last December in Beethoven’s five piano concertos. Their spellbinding performances, streamed on DG Stage from LSO St Luke’s and recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon, harvested a bumper crop of critical superlatives. Here was “history in the making”, wrote The Times in its five-star review, while Bachtrack noted, “Purity and clarity are hallmarks of Zimerman’s playing and there was an almost aristocratic composure to his phrasing and a velvet touch … Everything was meticulous, not … a quaver out of place.”
These landmark interpretations can now be heard on Ludwig van Beethoven – Complete Piano Concertos. The Deutsche Grammophon album, released today, is available as a 3-CD digipack, a 5‑LP vinyl box and an audio e-album. A deluxe edition (3 CDs and 1 Blu-ray) including exclusive video footage of all five concertos and a special Dolby Atmos® mix of the complete audio and video recordings will be issued on 5 November 2021.
To mark the album’s release today, DG Stage is streaming the original three-concert cycle again, beginning this evening with Concertos Nos. 1 and 3. The Second and Fourth Concertos will be shown tomorrow (10 July), and Concerto No. 5 on Sunday (11 July).
Reviewers of last December’s DG Stage broadcasts were unanimous in their praise for both Krystian Zimerman’s individual artistry and the compelling collective music-making of the LSO under Sir Simon Rattle’s direction, in performances unquestionably enriched by the close understanding forged over the years between the orchestra and its Music Director. The Wiener Zeitung praised the 64-year-old Polish pianist for his youthful wit and subtle maturity: here was a “keyboard seducer with a delicate touch, but also a sense of fun”. The Observer (London) commended Zimerman’s “peerless, witty playing”, while in the Fourth Piano Concerto the i (London) detected “a conspiracy between conductor and soloist as to who could conjure a phrase with more magical softness”.
Pianist, conductor and orchestra were originally scheduled to perform all five concertos in one evening at the Barbican Centre on Beethoven’s birthday. The public event was cancelled as lockdown measures returned to London. The show decamped to LSO St Luke’s where the musicians were able to work within the safe limits of Covid−19 restrictions. What they achieved together, socially distanced yet fully immersed in the music, was nothing short of miraculous.
Performing the piano concertos at the end of this difficult year, comments Sir Simon Rattle, generated an extra measure of empathy and reminded everyone involved of music’s vital importance. “Beethoven’s music always asks for more than you can give, to go deeper into yourself than you could ever imagine,” he notes. “After all the anxiety and uncertainty that the pandemic gave us, it was such a release and such a joy for us to play Beethoven again. We were able to do this at a time when so many musicians had been prevented from working. It’s something I think we will never forget.”