Rachmaninov
Piano Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.1
Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18
Krystian Zimerman (piano)

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa

Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston – Concerto No.1 in December 1997; Concerto No.2 in December 2000
CD No: DG 459 643-2
Duration: 62 minutes
Reviewed: February 2004
There have been times when Krystian Zimerman has seemed so preoccupied with finite colours and chord balancing that music’s longer spans and underlying emotions have been rather spurned.
In these concertos, not exactly rush-released and with no plans for there to be a cycle, Zimerman not only displays his transcendental technique and his long-brooded pianistic concerns, but also his lyrical and powerful musicianship, which crosses through into Rachmaninov’s volatile soul. Without being indulgent or, indeed, especially revelatory, Zimerman shows a natural rapport with Rachmaninov’s daredevil display and confidential thoughts.
In the most flamboyant pages of the first concerto, Zimerman’s coruscation is never that of the mindless virtuoso; he puts back to us expression both charged and heartfelt, without the heart ever being attracted to the sleeve. Similarly, in the more introspective moments there is nothing mawkish. Zimerman is just as direct with the ubiquitous second concerto’s restlessness; myriad inflections and subtleties speak volumes about Zimerman’s abilities to work from within the music and present this familiar work in rejuvenated but not spurious fashion.
In short, these frequent concertos are new-minted without recourse to novelty or flashiness. The warmth and character of the Boston Symphony is the perfect foil for Zimerman’s patrician unfolding; Seiji Ozawa sticks to Zimerman like glue while unearthing and clarifying details that tend to go for nothing in those big-effect performances that Rachmaninov tends to attract, unfortunately.
Nothing routine here, then, with the first concerto electrifying. It’s also the better recorded, warm and clear; in the C minor the orchestra is rather backward and, like the piano, can be steely-toned at times.
However, these scrupulous, imaginative and intense renditions certainly refresh the palate.

 

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