Seen and Heard Recital
Mozart, Ravel, Chopin
Krystian Zimerman (piano), Royal Festival Hall, 9 June, 2005 (CC)
Although Krystian Zimerman is almost a legend in his own lifetime,
I must confess I had not been knocked out by him on previous occasions.
Now, however, I see what the fuss is about.
On paper, Mozart's Sonata K330 at the outset seemed to be a token
opener, something to welcome us in before the main meat arrived.
But things were not predictable here. Despite Zimerman beginning
almost immediately (no wait for the audience to settle), this
was translucently-textured Mozart of the highest order. The playing
was reminiscent of Uchida at times, but with more interpretative
substance to it. Expertly deft decorations were impressive, but
perhaps it was the more vocally-inspired slow movement that impressed
most. Zimerman brought a richness even to two-voiced textures
while making the piano sing wonderfully. Interesting also to observe
his mannerism of a 'circling' left hand when the right plays alone.
The perhaps surprisingly cheeky finale, with its superb articulation,
was a delight.
The clear textures of the Mozart were mirrored in Zimerman's Ravel
(the Valses nobles et sentimentales). The opening was
played with real abandon, the dissonances simply delicious There
was a real sense of rightness about all eight Valses, making them
the perfect partner for Chopin's Fourth Ballade (the rest of the
programme comprised only Chopin). Believe it or not, though, latecomers
(at this stage!) were allowed in while Zimerman was playing, providing
a huge distraction. A shame, as Zimerman conjured up a dreamy
sense of nostalgia. He has the ability to make one hang on a note,
forcing the assembled audience to take a collective breath. It
is almost as if Zimerman is as enamored with the space between
notes than he is with the notes themselves. More, his impeccable
technique is simply never used for show (and there must be great
temptation in music such as this).
The Op. 24 Mazurkas (a set of four) opened the second part of
the recital. Great care was given to the first (G minor). It simultaneously
seemed improvised yet was sculpted with great attention to detail.
Zimerman liked to emphasize Chopin's searching aspect in these
works, giving them tremendous integrity as well as fluidity. (And
ignoring the watch alarm to perfection.) Chopin's Second Sonata
has been popular of late, with both Grimaud and Pollini providing
their very different interpretations. And superb though Pollini
was, it was Zimerman who supplied the most complete reading. Imbuing
the opening octaves with real biting edge and thereafter adding
an elemental right hand, this was a strictly 'no sentimentalizing'
zone. The development section continued the theme of bleakness
(weird though I am aware it may sound, I 'heard' it in dark purple).
There seemed to be a moment (brief) of Zimerman forcing the tone
at one point and I simply cannot make my mind up whether it was
purposeful or not...
There was no trace of awkwardness to the Scherzo (never mind the
Funeral March, it is this fast Scherzo that is the burial ground
for many – nay, almost all – pianists). In keeping
perhaps with Zimerman's bleak outlook on this sonata, the conciliatory
nature of the Trio was played down. The Funeral March itself was
a huge edifice, weighty and every inch its name. This
featured true consolation, as well as absolutely huge
fortissimi. Straight in to the famous finale, as technically excellent
as Pollini, but even more unsettling. A masterpiece of a recital.