Krystian Zimerman’s cooperation with Leonard Bernstein started in 1977, when the former was invited to perform Stravinski’s Les Noces for four pianos and orchestra together with an LP and television recording for the BBC. Martha Argerich, Cyprien Katsaris, and Homero Francesch were Zimerman’s partners in the project that marked the beginning of cooperation between the two artists and lasted until Bernstein’s death. In those 13 years, the two performed all Beethoven’s and Brahms’s piano concertos together in a number of concert halls on many continents. In 1989 Zimerman was the last soloist to record three concertos of the master from Bonn under the baton of Bernstein.
The circumstances of the joint performance of Symphony No. 2 “The Age of Anxiety” are quite funny. As the pianist himself recalls: “during one of the concerts, Bernstein asked me if I knew his symphonies. I answered I did, and that I had even played ‘the second’, which he found strange and asked me why he knew nothing about it. He proposed a series of concerts, beginning with the Barbican Centre and the Royal Festival Hall in London. Queen Elizabeth II was in the audience at the second venue, and gave us the honour of an audience after the concert. Later we presented the piece seven more times in the US, with one of the performances being the concert for the 70th birthday of Leonard Bernstein. Shortly before his death, he asked me in jest if I agreed to play also at his hundredth birthday. I happened to do that in Boston, albeit by then without him. While preparing for the grand concert, the Orchestra counted that I was the soloist who had performed most frequently with Bernstein throughout his entire conducting career. That is why, on the centenary of the great artist’s birth, I proposed a joint performances of Symphony No. 2 to my closest conducting kin: Jacek Kaspszyk, Grzegorz Nowak, Simon Rattle, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. They have all agreed with great enthusiasm to bring back the memory of the figure I owe so much to.”
Besides a series of concerts in London, Paris, Berlin, Luxembourg, Genoa, Lucerne, Tokyo, Sapporo, Seoul, Beijing, Prague, Shanghai and Zurich, and performances at the summer festivals in Lucerne, Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Baden-Baden, the audio and video recording of “The Age of Anxiety” with participation of the Berliner Philharmonic and Simon Rattle is slated for June. Performance of 20th-century music, also by Polish composers, is very important for Krystian Zimerman. The best proof is perhaps the fact that in the 43 years of his artistic activity and performance of over two thousand concerts, the music of the previous century featured in nearly every other repertoire.