Krystian Zimerman (born December 5, 1956) is a Polish classical pianist who has been hailed as one of the finest living pianists.
Zimerman was born in Zabrze, Poland, and studied at the University of Music in Katowice under Andrzej Jasiński. His career was launched when he won the 1975 Warsaw International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition. He performed with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan in 1976 and he made his debut in the United States with the New York Philharmonic in 1979. He has toured widely and made a number of recordings. Since 1996 he has taught piano at the Academy of Music in Basel, Switzerland.
Zimerman is best known for his interpretations of Romantic music, but has performed a wide variety of classical pieces as well. He has also been a supporter of contemporary music. For example, Witold Lutosławski wrote his piano concerto for Zimerman, who later recorded it. Amongst his best-known recordings are the piano concerti of Edvard Grieg and Robert Schumann with conductor Herbert von Karajan; the Brahms concerti with Leonard Bernstein, the piano concerti of Frédéric Chopin, one recording conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini and a later one conducted by himself at the keyboard; the Third, Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos of Beethoven under Bernstein (Zimerman himself led the accompaniment of the Vienna Philharmonic from the keyboard in Beethoven's First and Second Concertos); the first and second piano concerti of Rachmaninoff; the piano concerti of Franz Liszt with Seiji Ozawa, the piano concerti of Maurice Ravel with Pierre Boulez, and solo piano works by Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy and Franz Schubert. In 2006, Zimerman recorded Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 with Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle (DG 477 5413; Limited Edition DG 477 6021).
Criticism of US policy
Shortly after September 11, 2001, Zimerman's personal Steinway grand piano was confiscated at JFK Airport when he landed in New York City to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. US customs destroyed his piano, claiming the glue smelled like explosives.
On April 26, 2009, Zimerman vowed to his audience at Los Angeles's Walt Disney Concert Hall that, in protest of America's placement of a missile defense shield in Poland, this would be his final appearance in the United States. He had made a similar comment in 2006, stating he would not return until George W. Bush was out of office.
Zimerman lives with his wife and two children in Switzerland, where he has spent the greater part of his life. He divides his time between family, concerts, and performances of chamber music. When not touring or building pianos, he has been editing piano editions of the works of Władysław Szpilman for Boosey and Hawkes and wrote a piece on aesthetics, which was published in Poland in March 2005.
• 1975 International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition, Warsaw (First prize)
• Léonie Sonning Music Prize (1994; Denmark)