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Culture Watch: Krystian Zimerman plays Grazyna Bacewicz

April 20, 2011 |  8:50 am

Bacewicz Krystian Zimerman plays Grażyna Bacewicz

(Deutsche Grammophon)

In the liner notes Krystian Zimerman is quoted as saying that whenever he plays Bacewicz’s Second Sonata “it always goes down very well with audiences.” Yes, that is if they are not too busy calling to have this extraordinarily eloquent and passionate pianist pilloried.

Two years ago (April 26 to be exact) at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Zimerman caused a scandal after a compelling performance of the sonata by the mid-20th century Polish composer too little known internationally. He announced that he would no longer play in the U.S. because he opposed the country's military policies in the Middle East and our presence in Poland.

Shortly before that concert he had performed the sonata, along with two piano quintets by Bacewicz, in Poland, and this is the live recording of the program. We hear a serious, strong composer of somber music, gingerly attempting to spice her music with progressive techniques. Her slow movements are remarkable, rivaling Schubert and Bartók in shimmering, lyrical beauty. The loving performances couldn’t be more convincing.


Review: Krystian Zimerman's controversial appearance at Disney Hall

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— Mark Swed