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Krystian Zimerman's shocking Disney Hall debut

April 27, 2009 | 12:24 am

Getprev Poland's Krystian Zimerman, widely regarded as one of the finest pianists in the world, created a furor Sunday night in his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall when he announced this would be his last performance in America because of the nation's military policies overseas.

Before playing the final work on his recital, Karol Szymanowski’s "Variations on a Polish Folk Theme," Zimerman sat silently at the piano for a moment, almost began to play, but then turned to the audience. In a quiet but angry voice that did not project well, he indicated that he could no longer play in a country whose military wants to control the whole world. 

“Get your hands off of my country,” he said.  He also made reference to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  

About 30 or 40 people in the audience walked out, some shouting obscenities.  “Yes,” he answered, “some people when they hear the word military start marching.”

Others remained but booed or yelled for him to shut up and play the piano.  But many more cheered.  Zimerman responded by saying that America has far finer things to export than the military, and he thanked those who support democracy.

For the first half of the recital, Zimerman had played a Bach Partita and Beethoven’s last piano sonata, Opus 111, with firm determination.  After intermission he made a last minute substitution, exchanging late Brahms works for a 1953 sonata by Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz.  The Szymanowski variations, which closed the program, was played with an astonishing ferocity that brought nothing but tumultuous cheers.  There was no encore.

The pianist was not available after the concert for further comment.

Zimerman has had problems in the United States in recent years.  He travels with his own Steinway piano, which he has altered himself.  But shortly after 9/11, the instrument was confiscated at JFK Airport when he landed in New York to give a recital at Carnegie Hall.  Thinking the glue smelled funny, the TSA decided to take no chances and destroyed the instrument.  Since then he has shipped his pianos in parts, which he reassembles by hand after he lands.  He also drives the truck himself when he carries his instrument from city to city over land, as he did after playing a recital in Berkeley on Friday.

MONDAY UPDATE: Review: Krystian Zimerman's controversial appearance at Disney Hall 

TUESDAY UPDATE: What led to Krystian Zimerman's surprising comments, walkouts

-- Mark Swed

Photo: Krystian Zimerman in 2005. Credit: Kasslara.

Comments () | Archives (584)

Piano destroyed days after 9/11 by the TSA? Get a grip people. TSA did not exist until 2002.

If its not US helped out in WW2, Poland might well have been wiped out in the map. I do not like some 'artist' trying to influence politics. Be an artist! His playing is not really that good, something is missing in his playing. Its the depth!

When I read comments, I cannot understand what is wrong with America. Wether people think Zimerman's German, preconceptions about being an artist or the world is about money. As far as I know he's polish and he knows what USA politics can do across the world (in Poland, Iraq, ex-Yugoslavia). An artist is just an artist, not a politician, so he was emotional and honest. Was he right? I don't care. Money? He will come back to America for money. Maybe he will need a new piano? Most of us work for the boss we don't even like, but he pays. When Americans open their eyes wider and look farther than their own state or country, they'll understand they are not very popular these days as it used to be.


NYC loves you

(from a former ground zero rescue worker)

I am an elected Republican precinct committeeman and support this man. I also have been a tea partier since 2007 (if you think they started in 2009...you have been lied to...look for them all over the country on dec. 16 2007 all over the country on youtube and realize that you live in a matrix of lies.)

Our foreign policy is not Constitutional and not defensive, but offensive. Preventative war? Really? Hitler and the Nazi's were the last to support that drivel. Conservatives still don't buy it? Who has led us into war whole heartedly in the last 100 years until Bush. Clinton LOVED nation building and we were supposedly against it. Democrat administrations loved it and went after it during Vietnam with small government Constitutionalists advocating against it. Korean War? Democrats...WWII Democrats who wanted to find a reason to get in the war and killed all oil and steel to Japan. WWI....Woodrow Wilson....Democrat...the nation didn't want to get into it...but then the "Lusitania" got hit and sunk...can you say "false flag" attack?

Wake up conservatives!!! I am ex-military and was fooled until about 2006, but realized something was not quite right. Read history and understand how our party has been usurped by elitists who benefit from big government and continuous war. They know that if they co-opted us in 2001...the interventionist nation building socialists that want to make the world safe for "democracy" would always vote for it.

We are not a demonocracy and the founders despised this failed form of government. We are a Constitutional Representative Republic. First...Constitutional...the law is the highest power...protecting all...even the minority...and a king or a mob(majority) cannot remove/destroy the right of the minority(we are all a minority at times in a certain belief/value.) Representative allows the people a mechanism for input for change according to their ideals as long as it doesn't infringe on the natural rights of any minority. A Republic is a marriage of sovereign "States" who are sovereign and also have a say. The States of course lost their say and interest in the early part of the 20th century in the name of "democracy" within the Senate. The Senate was the representative body for the States interest with the house the people's say and interest. This change has caused major damage and imbalance to the design of the system, but the powers that be wanted to reduce the influence of the States and make them subordinate as if they were mere provinces or territories which they are not!

I'm done with this rant, but you all must question! Research and read...wake up...you are living in a false Matrix...and even as an elected Republican Precinct Committee Man...don't believe me...the Republican Party at the national level has been co-opted as well. I have been to Nationals and have seen it.

Get in your local party...Dem..Rep...Libertarian...Constitutional...or other and make a difference. We are the people...we are neighbors...and we may at times disagree, but we are being used like fools to fight each other while the enemies...the oligarchical elite laugh and own the two major parties at the national level.

Curious to see if this post gets posted?

TSA destroyed his steinway because they thought the glue smelled funny! Hello? America? Ready to line up for your strip search? Goldman Sachs needs your house and your pension? You don't have a problem with that do you?

Wow, many americans react more and more like Israelis. Always in denial, always blaming the others, always angry.

But he is right. American military and mercenaries murder thousands of people every year. Nothing to be proud of...

We are in over 135 countries, we have over 600 military bases, to maintain this ,it is costing us $3 Billion a day. We killed over million inocent people in Afganistan and Iraq 1/3 of them children! Poluted their country with Depleted Uranium, etc. And you stupid sheepeople thinking it's ok? Wake up! go to: http://www.trueworldhistory.info
and learn!


The wars are ridiculous. The were based on a lie. They are economically unsound. They are hypocritical on so many levels. They are unconstitutional. America's military is the largest terrorist network in the world. Sure we don't go blow up a building, but do we go into foreign nations and kill thousands of innocent people (men, women & children), who are unrelated to the cause that we are fighting for? Yep. Sounds like terrorism to me. Do we go into other nations and cause social and financial ruin, destroying the lives of tens of millions of people? Yep. To me, that is much worse than the terrorism we experienced on 9/11.

The death and destruction that we have caused through our military to innocent people FAR outweighs any destruction done to innocent Americans on 9/11.

To those who would say, "If you don't like the US, then move", I would say, I'd be crazy to move. I'd be putting myself closer into the crosshairs of the biggest terrorist network on the planet (the US). No, I'd rather try and erode that terrorist network from within. I'll erode it through moral character, because the US possesses almost none of that.

brentdavis29 [at] gmail [dot] com

You people who define this article a false statement is utterly ridiculous. He made a fact about the military but that's not all true it's not just the military it's the brain washed idiots who think everything is fucking fine in this world. When clearly the unheard of bill passed for new world order by George W. Bush. You guys are now screwed, only thing that can hold you back from having slowly taking your freedom away is the bill of rights, right to speech right to freedom, but this will all be over soon.

War-Mongers & Ignorant people will always Boo someone who speaks the Truth about the united WAR states military adventurism around the world.

There are over 700 Military bases around the world, costing American tax payers during a time of recession & the highest unemployment in a long time. If we were to shut down these bases this country would save Billions of dollars a year and would have more than enough to rebuild this countries infrastructure, cut down on the deficit as well as cutting everyones taxes!!

It's also time to END The WARS, bring home all our troops and build our strong national defense here at home on our own shores.

Let's End the WARS & the Military Adventurism, and let's put Americans back to work here at home!


There are still a few more places outside of the USoA that haven't yet been bombed back into the stone age and hence are able to appreciate a good pianist.

I for me think the TSA destroying a Steinway telling beyond words. It's putting the stupidest goons you can find in charge to lord over the rest, is what it is. It so clearly spells it out to the discerning traveler: Welcome to the United Stupid of America.

Awesome job! We need more public figures telling the truth about our corrupt, intrusive military machine! It's the reason why the whole world hates us and will be applauding our economic destruction in the very near future.

Someone posted, he hates our country but he'll still come here and take our money ? That's a HUGE LAUGH, partner your MONEY was stolen lock, stock and barrel in 1933, The FED and Franklin Delano Roosevelt also made it a crime to own ANY GOLD OR SILVER. The next thing is this man provided quid pro quo, or "Something , his labor, for a debt to be paid by the United States. HE GOT AN I.O.U. Not silver or gold, he got PAPER. Where do you think the money comes from when you buy a house. YOUR PROMISSORY NOTE. You ever notice the promissory isn't in the supposed lenders name IT'S IN YOUR NAME. And it's cashed or sold...THERE IS NO CONSIDERATION THEREFORE NO CONTRACT...Oh what's the use, some people will just die broke and stupid. Ron White hit the nail on the head when he said "Yoy can't fix stupid" and we've got a country full of em.
BTW all these wars are coming out of your pocket also. How do you like it so far !!

The US is doing nations building all over. To the extent that it is destroying your own society, the economy in ruins. And for what reason? The 9/11 and Al Qaida argument does not hold anymore. Osama was a Saudi, not Iraki, Afghan, Yemeni, Somali or Pakistani. And the irony is that the Saudi's are our allies, and the Osama family friends of the former President's family even. The whole mess is extremely bizarre.
So - was this an effective way to protest? Maybe, maybe not. He has headline news in this paper at least so obviously led to something...

Bravo Maestro Zimerman!
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell

You can tell who is from the US by what they are commeting.. Truth hurts doesn't it.. America is one of the most corrupt nations in the world and they are the cause of most evil. The problem is that the people cant see it and wont believe it when their own government burns the constitution and bill of rights right in front of their eyes.. they start world wars and sell it as "for their own security" killing hundres of thousands innocent people. They torture people and send them to jail without a trial.

The amercian people need to swollow their pride and show true patriotism.. For the people. Regain your rights and power from government.. Stop fighting with everyone and build up your country..

"Who cares what Krystian says?"

Yep, that's what a lot of US folks think and exactly there problem.
Not noticed that you're the only country that even needs to check baby milk to check whether it is a bomb or not?

"If it wasn't for our military, Mr. Zimerman, your country would still be under the iron fist of the Soviet Union."
@Guy Thompto

you're f****** crazy. or you're just another stupid american ignorant.
people of poland freed themselves as they done before during over 1000 year history. sorry not every country is only 250 years on map. some nations are far more older than you - americans.
and be sure that even without regans words poland would regain its freedom.
russia tried to get their hands on poland many times in the history. and always earlier or later they lost.
oh, and surely you don't know but poland is the only country in history who caputered the russian capital - moskow. they've even got their unity day on 4 of november - the day they freed their capital after years of polish reign.
even great USA wasnt able to do it. maybe its because your people were having nomandic type of life then.

so hands off poland please.
or think twice before you write stupid insulting other nation things.

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