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RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

October

As Zimerman leads back to the opening material, the sense of the initial music being scarred by what has happened is searing

Harriet Smith cheers Krystian Zimerman’s first solo recording for over 20 years and finds his transcendent late Schubert both courageous and revelatory

Schubert Piano Sonatas – No 20, D959; No 21, D960 Krystian Zimerman pf DG F 479 7588GH (82’ • DDD)

It has been a long, long time since Krystian Zimerman’s last solo recording. Think back to his Gramophone Award-winning Debussy Préludes in 1994. Yes, that long. So he’s up there with Sokolov in terms of rarity value. It is, he reveals in the booklet interview, all to do with approaching 60 (which he celebrated in December 2016, 11 months after this disc was recorded) and feeling that ‘it was time to find the courage’ for such works as the late Schuberts and late Beethovens, works that he has been playing for years. (By chance I heard him play these two sonatas live in the Royal Festival Hall last spring, when he stepped in at a moment’s notice after Mitsuko Uchida had had to withdraw. That’s what I call luxury casting.)

Courage? If only certain other artists could be so forbearing. You’ll notice there are no comparisons listed. That’s because this is one of those rare instances where they are not needed, do not illuminate the argument. Zimerman, quite simply, sounds like no one else. That’s partly down to the instrument,

Krystian Zimerman draws you into a world of such detail it’s as if you’ve never heard the music before

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having inserted into his Steinway a keyboard he has made himself. Yes, you did read that correctly: for if there’s one thing that Zimerman is, it’s obsessive about the detail. So this keyboard is intended to be better able to

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sustain a cantabile line (this is done by having the hammer strike a different part of the string, if you want to get technical); it also has a wondrous clarity in the bass and is intentionally lighter-actioned, to avoid what PHO T O G R A P H Y

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24 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017

Click on a CD cover to buy/stream from gramophone.co.uk

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