It came as a shock to the six-year-old Krystian Zimerman when he discovered that not every household has a piano. Until then, he had assumed that playing the piano occupied the same position in life as eating, drinking and sleeping. It was also at the age of six that he made his first appearance on television in his native Poland, playing his own compositions.
Attending the Music Academy in Katowice, Zimerman studied with Andrzej Jasinski who remained his only teacher after his very first lessons from his father. Two months after completing his high-school studies, at the age of 18, Zimerman became the youngest ever winner of the prestigeous Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1975. Although he had already performed widely both in Poland and abroad after winning several other competitions, giving concerts in Vienna, Copenhagen and several eastern European countries, the Chopin prize was a major breakthrough and catapulted the young musician into the forefront of the international music circuit.
His greatest luck in life, Zimerman feels, has been to meet and learn from great musicians, Arthur Rubinstein, with whom he developed an early friendship, was an important musical influence, and Zimerman`s work in concerts and recordings with conductors such as Bernstein, Giulini and Karajan formed landmarks in his career. More recently, Witold Lutoslawski dedicated his Piano Concerto to Zimerman, who gave its premiere in 1989.
Zimerman`s repertoire extends through solo piano music, concertos and chamber music; his aim in all of these is not to specialise in one composer or style, but to keep the range broad, from Bach to Lutoslawski. Rather than allowing himself to be labelled `a Beethoven player` he put Beethoven to one side and worked instead on Brahms, always preferring to avoid the dangers of musical pigeon-holing.
It can take a number of years for Zimerman to prepare a piece for the concert platform: his method of working involves studying a wide range of pieces at any one time, each of which will be at a different stage of acquaintance or readiness. Having lived with a work such as the Brahms Piano Concerto No 2 or the Liszt B minor Sonata for 10 years helps to produce a mature, fully thought-out interpretation. This working structure is characteristic of his belief in long-term investment - whether in practising, concert planning, or decision-making in day-to-day life.
He limits his concerts to not more than 50 per year, also working on between one and three records per year on his exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Many of his recordings have won awards, including the Gramophone Award, the Grand Priz du Disque, the Edison, the Diapaison d`or and a Grammy nomination. Although a prizewinner on a number of occasions and a participant in various competitions in the early part of his career, Zimerman remains firmly opposed to the idea of competitions as a method of musical selection and refuses all invitations to sit on juries for international piano competitions.
Beyond the piano, Zimerman`s interests range from playing the organ to electronics via psychology. He is married and has two children, Claudia and Ricki.
Photos for PR use