Krystian Zimerman once explained to a student that he shouldn’t play the piano, but the music. However, in order to play the music rather than the instrument, you need Zimerman’s highly specific knowledge: he probably has a better understanding than any other pianist of the mechanism of concert grand pianos, their dependency on performance venues and their suitability for different compositions – even as a child, he made piano keys by hand.
In 1975, Zimerman took the music world by storm when he, the youngest of the year's entrants, won the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The following year he made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker. The Polish artist, who was one of the favourite pianists of both Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan, is regarded as the master interpreter of the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Liszt, and his playing style, which combines power and subtlety, impeccable technique and the willingness to take risks, is admired throughout the world. His conscientiousness leads to comparatively few appearances and a manageable discography which, however, consists almost exclusively of reference recordings. These include performances of piano concertos by Johannes Brahms and Witold Lutosławski, recorded by Krystian Zimerman together with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.