Piano Sonatas D959, D960
Krystian Zimerman p
Deutsche Grammophon 4797588
“I’ve played these pieces for 30 years, but always feared them tremendously because of my unbelievable respect for the composer. Perhaps I worried that if I left them any longer, it would be too late.” Krystian Zimerman
The return of the talented Mr Zimerman
Those who admire the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman as I do will be excited by this new release, his first solo album in years. The hallmarks of his playing are here: a chiselled clarity of texture (nothing vague or mushy), subtle expression that always remains in scale and, above all, freshness.
These magnificent sonatas were Schubert’s last, but they are full of joy. The fact that they represent Schubert’s final thoughts is no reason to layer them with nostalgia. I find in some German pianists a tendency to sink into reverence at every opportunity, making Schubert sound mawkish and old-fashioned. Zimerman is entirely different: in the A Major’s second movement, he separates the notes of the accompaniment (his use of the sustaining pedal is delicate), and his clean rendition of the theme reveals this music to be uniquely quirky and timeless. At the same time, he conveys a feeling of trudging through the snow that links the piece with Winterreise. The B Flat Sonata opens with a chorale-like theme, which again leads some pianists into reverence – but this is not a hymn, and Zimerman takes pains to bring out the solo line, understanding that Schubert is all about melody.
This is musicianship of the highest order: a ‘refined spontaneity’ that only comes with deep immersion in the
music and a total identification with the composer on an emotional and intellectual level. Phillip Scott