Krystian Zimerman and Sir Simon Rattle have reunited to record Beethoven’s Complete Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra. Their landmark recording, a major highlight of the celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, will be released digitally, as a 3-CD digipack, and as a 5-LP vinyl box on 9 July 2021. Piano Concerto No.1 was released digitally today, 17 December 2020, on Beethoven’s 250th birthday.
Watch Krystian Zimerman performing Beethoven’s piano concertos on DG Stage
Watch Krystian Zimerman performing Beethoven’s five piano concertos with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon’s online platform DG Stage: Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 on 17 December, Nos. 2 and 4 on 19 December and No. 5, the ‘Emperor’, on 21 December.
Beethoven’s five piano concertos trace a path from Classicism to Romanticism and are masterpieces of a genre he revolutionised. Beethoven first made his name as a virtuoso pianist and he premiered all of them apart from the Fifth Concerto, as his deafness was so serious by then that he could no longer confidently perform in public.
Krystian Zimerman and Sir Simon Rattle are both considered authorities on performing Beethoven. They have previously made three recordings together for Deutsche Grammophon and their unique rapport is based on years of shared ideals and mutual respect.
“When we started working together there was a feeling of complete, natural communication”
“When we started working together there was a feeling of complete, natural communication,” noted Simon Rattle. “I do look at him, but I don’t need to: there’s a feeling that we know where we’re going to breathe. It’s like having a brother. Organically, this works.”
Although Krystian Zimerman is internationally renowned today as a Chopin specialist he was more closely associated with Beethoven early in his career after winning the Hradec u Opavy Ludwig van Beethoven International Piano Competition in 1973. In 1989 he made his first recording of the Beethoven piano concertos, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, however unfortunately Bernstein died before that cycle was complete so Zimerman conducted the remaining works, Nos. 1 and 2, from the keyboard in 1991.
“Leonard Bernstein gave me the courage and confidence to be daring with my interpretations, trying out musical ideas that were completely new,” explained Krystian Zimerman. “I have found almost the same approach, however, in one other conductor: Simon Rattle.”
“To these concertos, Beethoven belongs”
The 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth provided the perfect reason for the pianist to return to Beethoven’s piano concertos. “I had not played these pieces for a few years and I miss them,” Krystian Zimerman said. “Some concertos you can play all your life and still feel hungry for them. To these concertos, Beethoven belongs.”
After researching Beethoven’s pianos, Zimerman, who has a deep practical understanding of the instrument’s mechanics, devised different keyboard actions to suit the various concertos.
The orchestra was spaced right across the Jerwood Hall at LSO St Luke’s because of social distancing regulations. “Sometimes it feels like blowing smoke signals over a mountain,” explained Rattle. “But there’s something about the effort that almost suits Beethoven. The struggle is part of his style.”
“If any of us were ever guilty of taking music for granted, that time has gone,” he added. “This reminds us of how important and how pure Beethoven’s music is. He’s a wonderful person to converse with at the end of such a strange time.”
Krystian Zimerman’s recording of Beethoven’s Complete Piano Concertos with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra will be released on 9 July 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.