RACHMANINOV Piano Concertos 1 + 2 / Zimerman,Ozawa


Piano Concertos · Klavierkonzerte
No. 1 op. 1 + No. 2 op. 18
Krystian Zimerman
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa
Int. Release 02 Jan. 2004
1 CD / Download
0289 459 6432 4

Track List

Sergey Vasil'yevich Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F Sharp Minor, Op. 1



Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18


Krystian Zimerman, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa

Total Playing Time 1:02:07

extraordinary, steely-fingered brilliance of Zimerman's playing . . . I've rarely heard it played more affectingly.

Fabulous from the off, the new Rachmaninov CD form Krystian Zimerman is above the most charismatic concerto recordings of the past 20 years, with a performance of the First that's strong on impulse, virtuosity and finesse and features watertight dialogue with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa. The nimbleness of Zimerman's fingerwork defies belief, while his split-second reflexes will keep you on the edge of your seat . . .

5 stars . . . New releases from Krystian Zimerman are special, not just because they are such rare events, and seemingly getting rarer, but because no pianist alive today lavishes more care and attention to detail on every performance he gives . . . both performances immediately promote Zimerman to the top rank of Rachmaninov interpreters on record, alongside Horowitz, Richter, Argerich and Pletnev . . . A fabulous disc.

. . . no pianist alive today lavishes more care and attention to detail on every performance he gives . . . both performances immediately promote Zimerman to the top rank of Rachmaninov interpreters on record . . . A fabulous disc.

Zimerman is one of the few players today with the technical bravura and musical taste to make something fresh . . . With Ozawa and the Boston SO in superb form, no lover of these works should forgo the pleasures of Zimerman in such much-played music.

[Krystian Zimerman] has gained almost mystic status as one of the world's greatest living pianists, and these performances show why. He plays with passion and brilliance, offering a bitingly clear touch but deploying his virtuosity to the right ends. He really does make one listen with fresh ears to this familiar music . . . I'd always be content with Zimerman in anything, and here's one instance when, however many recordings one already has of these works, this one will never be an irrelevant burden on the shelves.

Rachmaninov's work takes on a violent emotional intensity not apparent in other interpretations . . . Zimerman engages it in a life and death struggle - and at a faster tempo.

Zimerman has taken nearly three decades to honour his 1976 DG contract to record Rachmaninov and, boy, it was worth the wait . . . His panache, dexterity and sheer good taste turn this into a thrilling ride . . . More than a match for any of the great recordings.

Krystian Zimerman's legendary quest for perfection leads him, in the First Concerto for example, to define a great deal of pianistic detail that sometimes goes unnoticed. The rapid passage-work and all those inner parts in the piano writing are articulated with strong, lithe fingers, while Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra complement the piano textures with comparable brilliance and an apt focus on indivudal instrumental timbres.

CD of the Month:
Any new recording by Krystian Zimerman is an event and this disc is no exception . . . There are few pianists today who manage to combine Zimerman's mystique - created largely by his relative scarcity on the concert platform - with such a poetic naturalness in performance. You get the impression that nothing would induce him to give a performance of anything unless it has been scrupulously studied and absorbed so that every last detail has been considered and thought about. His year-long devotion to the Chopin concertos some years ago, for which he even founded a special orchestra, bears witness to that intensity of vision. This disc is as perfect an example as is possible of why great music still needs new recordings . . . A year without a recording by the vital, ever-youthful Krystian Zimerman is a year lost . . . the verve and poetry of these performances somehow forbid comparison, even at the most exalted level.

Krystian Zimerman is a perfectionist who thinks twice before making a discographical move. Thus it comes as no surprise that he imbues the piano parts of Rachmaninov's first two concertos with remarkable technical refinement and finesse . . . there's no denying the care and formidable musicianship that distinguishes Zimerman and Ozawa's masterful teamwork, nor DG's stunning sonics.

Buy . . . exciting new disc . . .

Disc of the Month . . . Krystian Zimerman, a pianist of fearsome technique, stupendous emotional range and a well-known stickler for precision . . . Zimerman's interpretation gives a fresh lift to a well-worn concerto . . . The Boston Symphony proves a superb accompanying force with great sensitivity and a flexibility to follow exactly what the soloist has up his sleeve. And credit has to be given to the sound engineers who allow the orchestra to play with unbridled power without inhibiting the piano.

Mr. Zimerman captures both the youthful sweep and the mature intricacy in a riveting performance. From the opening outburst of vehement double octaves coursing down the keyboard, his playing is the more ferocious for its commanding control . . . Mr. Zimerman's bracing performance is a revelation . . . The heaving sweep of Mr. Zimerman's playing when the main theme finally breaks loose is awesome. And the wonders of the performance continue: the melancholic intimacy of the slow movement; the uncanny clarity of the crackling opening to the finale, which subsides so naturally to make way for the favorite theme of every Rachmaninov lover, played with unmannered elegance. Dynamic chemistry between performers is hard to account for, but Mr. Zimerman and Mr. Ozawa clearly have it.

Vital and dramatic performance by Zimerman . . . A thoughtful, fastidious artist, Zimerman illuminates details with alluring tonal glitter. With his poetic playing and the sensitive solo flute and clarinet, the dreamy slow movement of No. 2 is exceptionally beautiful.

. . . the opening of the First Concerto is among the most exciting in the literature, and Zimerman does not disappoint. In the scintillating final movement with its big cadenza his playing is quite simply stunning. He displays more than mere self-congratulatory bravura, managing to temper Rachmaninov's youthful note-spinning with an enquiring, full-toned lyricism . . . Zimerman is always a fascinating pianist to listen to and this disc is recommended, especially for the First Concerto -- it's a humdinger!

You'll struggle to find a better recording of the 2004 Hall of Fame winner. This was our April Disc of the Month and we raved about Zimerman's virtuosity and ability to give each phrase meaning and purpose.

Zimerman is a brilliant if erratic soloist with a tendency to introspection and detail . . . It is quite simply very fine Rachmaninoff playing, from a vantage point that lies outside the mainstream but remains perfectly credible. The performances is chiefly remarkable for its vast resources of color and its exceptional concern for inner voicing. I've rarely heard elsewhere such detail in the initial statement of the first theme from the second concerto's finale, for instance . . . Engineering is good, with a lively hall ambiance. The liner notes are decent . . . it is intelligent and distinctive music-making that works brilliantly. Definitely recommended.

This is a technical feat . . . the precision, weight, crispness and craftsmanship are admirable.

. . . the verve and poetry of these performances somehow forbid comparison, even at the most exalted level . . . had Rachmaninov heard Zimerman he might have been envious. Zimerman opens in a blaze of rhetorical glory before skittering through the first Vivace with the sort of winged brilliance that will reduce lesser pianists to despair. The cadenza is overwhelming, and at 4'36" in the central Andante's starry ascent his rubato tugs painfully at the heartstrings. In the finale, despite a dizzying tempo, every one of the teeming notes is pinpointed with shining clarity. The Second Concerto also burns and coruscates in all its first heat . . . Zimerman inflects one familiar theme after another with a yearning, bittersweet intensity . . . Every page is alive with a sense of wonder at Rachmaninov's genius. Seiji Ozawa and the Boston orchestra are ideal partners, and DG's sound and balance are fully worthy of this memorable release.

Mitreißende Virtuosität wechselt anschließend mit wunderbarer musikalischer Lyrik . . . Den Klavierpart hat Zimerman bis ins letzte Detail ausgearbeitet. Betörend schön sein Klang. Alles wirkt prägnant -- und mit höchster emotionaler Dringlichkeit vorgetragen.

...die Einspielung gehört zum Besten, was in den letzten Jahren erschienen ist... Klangsatter Höhepunkt sind Zimermans Schlussattacken auf das mit vollem Blech anspielende Orchester.

Noble Eleganz... [die Aufnahme] belegt eindrücklich, dass Zimerman nach wie vor ein Virtuose ist, der weder im raschen Figurenwerk noch in den vollgriffigen Akkordkaskaden in manuelle Bedrängnis gerät. Vor allem aber lässt die Aufnahme durch ihre gestalterische Noblesse und Eleganz aufhorchen: Die Fähigkeit des Pianisten, die grossen Steigerungen ganz organisch und ungezwungen aufzubauen, ist dabei ebenso bemerkenswert wie seine geschmeidige, runde Phrasierung.

Selten hat man den hochvirtuosen, dabei sehr komplexen und dichten Klavierpart des e-Moll-Monstrums so durchsichtig, so prägnant und filigran aus dem schlank und spritzig ausgesteuerten Orchesterklang heraustreten hören, und so gelingt Zimerman eine eindrucksvolle musikalische Rehabilitierung der beiden zu oft in wabernden Nebelschwaden erstickten "Schmachtfetzen". Sein Rezept: Er nimmt die emotionale Botschaft beider Werke einfach ernst -- und findet eine sehr plausible Kombination zwischen akribischer Notengenauigkeit und einem durchaus romantischen, agogisch ausgeformten, rhapsodisch-impulsiven Interpretationsansatz . . . beeindruckend . . .

Man muss nur wenige Minuten der Aufnahme hören, um zu spüren, dass hier ein Komponist ernst genommen wird, der immer noch völlig unverdient im Ruch eines Salonlöwen steht . . . Schwer vorstellbar scheint es andererseits, dass ein Pianist mit so immensen technischen Ressourcen, einer so nuancierten Anschlagskultur und einem hochentwickelten Gefühl für Proportionen, Stimmungen und Charaktere -- ein Künstler also, der die idealen Voraussetzungen für dieses Konzert [Rachmaninov Nos. 3 & 4] mitbringt --, diese nicht irgendwann in die Waagschale legen wird.

c'est une relecture qui nous est proposée, axée sur les contrastes dynamiques et les variations d'intensité, fondée sur une attention particulièrement intelligente aux indications de la parition. Les subtiles accentuations de la pulsation (souvent légèrement au-dessus ou en dessous de ce qu'on a l'habitude d'entendre) et les jeux de masses sonores auxquels Zimerman et Ozawa se livrent font vibrer l'oeuvre tout entière. . . . ce disque devrait rapidement devenir incontournable.

Soutenu par la direction . . . péremptoire . . . de Seiji Ozawa, Krystian Zimerman fait une fois de plus preuve dans cette musique où on ne l'attendait guère d'un abattage, d'une sûreté rythmique et d'un contrôle du son époustouflants. Son jeu ne manque ni de souplesse dans l'articulation, ni de liberté dans le choix des tempos et des phrasés, mais évite les accents pathétique au profit d'un dramatisme hautain. Sans jouer totalement la carte de la distanciation, sans négliger non plus le lyrisme automnal inscrit dans cette musique, Zimerman et Ozawa brusquent nos habitudes en défendant une vision à la fois brûlante et concentrée, aussi «moderne» et tranchante dans le Deuxième Concerto . . .

On sait quel perfectionniste est Krystian Zimerman, réalisant des disques rares et mûrement médités. Son dernier enregistrement, les Concertos de Chopin diriges par lui du piano . . . a réussi cet incroyable tour de force: révéler des beautés insoupçonnées dans ces ¿uvres pourtant rabâchées, et surclasse largement toutes les références existantes, y compris sa propre version antérieure, pourtant déjà superbe, avec Giulini (DG). C'est dire le niveau d'excellence que peut atteindre cet artiste, et les attentes que suscitent cette nouvelle parution. De fait, écouter par exemple la plénitude et la beauté des accords introductifs du Deuxième Concerto, puis la transparence et le galbe idéale de la mélodie aux cordes, amoureusement sculptée par Ozawa, laisse penser que nous tenons là la plus magnifique interprétation jamais réalisée de cette ¿uvre . . . ce disque . . . comporte . . . des moments tellement magnifiques que l'amoureux de ces ¿uvres y trouvera de quoi se délecter.

Una conjunción de talentos irresistible, que da lugar a una extraordinaria versión.

Lo poco que graba Zimerman es soberbio. ... Lo verdaderamente importante es comprobar cómo la estatura artística del genial pianista polaco, a pesar de sus escasas comparecencias en disco, sigue intacta y cómo aún es capaz de depararnos sorpresas en repertorios en los que nunca habíamos tenido oportunidad de escucharle. ... Como una verdadera fuerza de la Naturaleza, Zimerman se nos muestra una vez más en posesión de un sonido extraordinariamente bello y poderoso y de una técnica sin fisura que corren parejos a su capacidad para llegar al fondo de cualquier partitura. La efusión melódica y la mezcla de lirismo y morbidez que definen la esencia posromántica de estos conciertos alcanzan en sus manos cotas realmente sublimes.

El virtuosismo de Zimerman es poco menos que devastador . . . torrencial, fulminante y articuladísima cascada de notas a supersónica velocidad. . . . Zimerman fulmina hasta el último vestigio latente de academicismo, languidez o sacarinoso sentimiento que los críticos han venido reprochando a Rachmaninov ya en vida del propio compositor, así que esta versión constituirá una recomendación idónea para todo aquel (y no son pocos) que alguna vez haya dudado de la sustancia de esta música. . . . se ofrece un apasionado y apasionante modo de hacer música del más alto quilataje: el elegantísimo y poético pasaje que se inicia con el solo de trompa . . . antes de la coda del primer movimiento, la tersura y concentración del adagio sostenuto (¡y qué control dinámico el de Zimerman en la cadencia de la sección central), la irresistible exuberancia del motivo de marcha en el allegro scherzando . . . son momentos para disfrutar con arrebato y que resonarán largo tiempo en su memoria [no. 2].

Zimerman di idee ne ha per trenta pianisti. Non una stessa nota nell'arco di una stessa melodia ha accento uguale, al punto che, più che una tastiera, sembra di distinguere intere famiglie di strumenti. Lasciano senza fiato la continua invenzione del fraseggio (quante volte abbiamo ascoltato questa musica?), il taglio melodico disperatamente dolce, ma sempre raffinatissimo (per scadere nel kitsch basta una sola sbavatura), la sgranatura impressionante nelle cadenze, la bellezza e il controllo del suono, là dove la partecipazione emotiva è totale.

Rauw en woest romantisch aanstormend klinkt zijn spel, dat floreert tegen de achtergrond van het onder leiding van Seiji Ozawa uitstekend spelende Boston Symphony Orchestra . . . waar het orkest een begeleidende rol speelt is de klank fluwelig en waar het op de voorgrond treedt gebeurt dat met een pathos dat aansluit op dat van Zimerman.

"Je speelt de Rachmaninov-concerten niet, je beleeft ze", was zijn conclusie. En dat is precies wat Zimermans uitvoering zo bijzonder maakt: de combinatie van spontane ervaring en de fabelachtig briljante pianistiek die de Poolse musicus in zijn lange carrière tot een tweede natuur is geworden.

Een groots en briljant concert.

Zimerman speelt niet alleen op superieure wijze de overbekende noten van dit populairste werk van Rachmaninov, maar vertelt daarmee ook een hoogst persoonlijk, doorleefd en typisch Russisch verhaal dat wordt geprojecteerd op Rachmaninov.
    Krystian Zimerman in conversation with Jessica Duchen

When did you first play these concertos?
I first learned them when I was 15 or 16, studying at the music school in Katowice. The Second Concerto was one of the first concertos I ever played with an orchestra, while the First was among the works I did for my diploma when I finished my studies in 1977. It was also Rachmaninov's own diploma piece. I felt I had a very personal relationship with it.

While I was at school, I nearly had the chance to play the Second Concerto at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London. We had an excellent school orchestra, which in 1974 made its first trip out of Poland to a festival of youth orchestras in Denmark - I was chosen to be the soloist. Over 100 groups from around the world were there, and we were thrilled to be awarded first prize. A BBC VIP from London was in the audience, and he arranged for us to be invited to the Proms the following summer. The idea was to play the Rachmaninov Second Concerto and I was again invited to be the soloist. But by February it turned out that I had qualified to take part in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The Prom was in August, the competition was in September, and I felt I couldn't do both. It was a painful decision, but I knew that the competition could ultimately be more important. Unfortunately, the school had to send a tape to the BBC to qualify for the Prom. The tape had already been recorded, so the only thing we could do at such short notice was to pretend that the proposed soloist had played it. So today, somewhere in the bowels of the BBC, there may be an unidentified tape from 1974 of me playing the Rachmaninov Second Concerto!

Were you influenced by Rachmaninov's own recordings?
I adore Rachmaninov as a pianist as well as a composer. His recording of the First Concerto is absolute genius - he said everything there is to be said about this work. His recording of the Second Concerto, however, has always been an enigma to me: I feel that this performance doesn't really explain what is inside this music. When I worked with Lutoslawski on his piano concerto, I remember him telling me that when he conducted his own pieces he felt that the one thing he could never dare to say to the orchestra was "Play it more beautifully because it's a fantastic piece!" So I wonder if in this recording Rachmaninov was maybe afraid of his own feelings, afraid to interpret it in a way that is truly touching, in case it sounds self-indulgent - I don't know how far it represents his real feelings about the work. I was looking for clues to the piece and went to Philadelphia to see the original score, and I found that it included pencil marks from Rachmaninov showing where you should really let go and knock yourself out!

Your performances of the concertos are white-hot. What are their key emotional elements for you?
You don't play the Rachmaninov concertos; you live them. For me, these are young concertos for young pianists: full of "Sturm und Drang", full of the emotions you feel the first time you are in love. I thought about how I would feel if I'd written a piece like the Second Concerto - there are some intensely touching moments and the melodic parts say so much about the composer that you would feel almost naked. Control is one thing I am not searching for in this piece . . .

Will you play or record the Third and Fourth Concertos as well?
I'm not so much in favour of complete recordings, and the four Rachmaninov concertos were never intended to be a cycle. I have great respect for No. 3, and at the moment I don't feel ready to put my thoughts about it into a recording. I feel the interpretation would be enormously complex to work out - it's so laden with emotion that it tears me to pieces every time I hear it. As I said, you don't play Rachmaninov concertos, you live them; and this one could almost be life-threatening . . .

You recorded the First Concerto in 1997 and the Second in 2000 - why did you choose these pieces at this time?
Actually, this recording has been in my contract with Deutsche Grammophon since 1976! It's what you could call a long-term project . . .

What do you enjoy about working with Seiji Ozawa?
My collaboration with Ozawa has been 25 years long and I respect him tremendously as a musician. He's a great human being to work with: he's open to every idea. We often have many different ideas about an interpretation, but it's always easy to reach a mutual ground. I first played with him in 1978; in 1982 we worked together with the Berliner Philharmoniker, celebrating its centenary; and he has invited me to Boston and other places to play concertos as well as recording the Liszt concertos together for Deutsche Grammophon. I particularly enjoyed playing Brahms's Second Concerto with him - that was an unforgettable experience.

    Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

In my own compositions, no conscious effort has been made to be original, or Romantic, or Nationalistic, or anything else. I write down on paper the music I hear within me, as naturally as possible. I am a Russian composer, and the land of my birth has influenced my temperament and outlook . . . What I try to do, when writing down my music, is to make it say simply and directly that which is in my heart . . .
(Sergei Rachmaninov, interviewed in 1941)

The unimpeded expression of emotion distinguished Rachmaninov's musical philosophy throughout his life, and the first two piano concertos exemplify this attitude. Dating from his youthful years in Russia before the Revolution forced him into exile, they fill the traditional three-movement concerto format with Rachmaninov's unmistakably personal style - high emotion, eloquent melody, rich and complex textures subtly coloured by the harmonies of Russian Orthodox church music and bells.

Rachmaninov was born on 1 April 1873 into a troubled family, and its atmosphere may well have determined the melancholy inclination of much of his music. His father was a heavy drinker and gambler, his parents separated while Rachmaninov was a child, and his sister died while still in her teens. Rachmaninov became a piano student at the Moscow Conservatory; while there he began to compose in earnest. But it was Ivanovka, the country estate of his cousins, the Satins, about 250 miles from Moscow and far from that city's pressures and disappointments, that provided him with his happiest experiences. There he wrote many of his finest works. While spending the summer of 1890 at Ivanovka he began the first movement of his First Piano Concerto - he was only 17. The following summer he completed the second and third movements in two-and-a-half days of creative ferment. The concerto was premièred on 17 March 1892 at a student concert in the Moscow Conservatory.

Years later, in the last months of 1917, shortly before he fled the Revolution, Rachmaninov revised the concerto extensively. By this time he had completed his Second and Third Concertos and now applied a new and more aromatic chromaticism to much of the soloist's passagework. Nevertheless, the work retains its spontaneous ardour and freshness: its intense emotionality and élan bear the hallmarks of a youthful genius who had the courage of his convictions.

The young Rachmaninov's self-confidence, however, was easily undermined by unsympathetic reactions. In 1897 his First Symphony was premièred, conducted by Glazunov, who was later rumoured to have been drunk, and the critical reaction was so negative that Rachmaninov was plunged into a deep depression. Over the next few years he composed no extended works, though he did develop his pianistic career, making his London début in 1899. Eventually, in 1900, he consulted the hypnotist Dr. Nikolai Dahl for help.

The story of his treatment and the subsequent composition of the Second Piano Concerto, which is dedicated to Dahl, has become a legend in music history. But in the light of new information about this episode from his grandson, it seems that Rachmaninov's love for the doctor's daughter could have been an equally important element. Soon afterwards he went again to Ivanovka, which helped to rehabilitate him, as did a holiday in Italy at Varazze where he drafted the concerto's second and third movements. The première in 1901 was a resounding success and definitively established Rachmaninov's reputation in the public eye.