Gramophone's Piano Award 2023

Szymanowski Piano Works

Krystian Zimerman


Having once spent a whole evening trying to talk a Kyiv Conservatoire classmate out of the idea that only a performer of the same nationality could reveal the true heart of music by their fellow countrymen (we were inevitably discussing Rachmaninov and the so-called Russian soul), I now feel Krystian Zimerman’s exhilaratingly idiomatic Szymanowski music scores a point in my friend’s favour. At the same time, hearing the volatility and mercurial shifts in the early Preludes, I can’t help but long for the Pole to record some Scriabin. Traversing Szymanowski’s three distinct compositional styles, with the Scriabinesque early works as bookends, the album also brings together Zimerman’s past and present, seamlessly juxtaposing 2022 recordings made in Japan with his 1994 account of the daringly extravagant Masques.

‘This recording only gets more rewarding with repeated hearings, and I find it impossible not to hope for further volumes’

Colours, shapes and every minute detail are interwoven to create a kaleidoscope of sense and sensuality. There is a perfect balance of wit, panache, sensitivity and virtuosity, be it in the show-off early Theme and Variations or in the Prokofiev-meets-Bartók late Mazurkas. Szymanowski’s music may have become almost a synonym for musical intoxication, but Zimerman’s hallmark clarity and extraordinary palette of colours, alongside his innate sense of grace and nobility, make a strong case for many other qualities. This recording only gets more rewarding with repeated hearings, and I find it impossible not to hope for further volumes: ones that take less than 30 years to appear. Michelle Assay

Read the original Gramophone Review

Recording categories




Concept Album


Early Music



Orchestral & Recording of the Year



Spatial Audio

Voice & Ensemble

Special Awards

Lifetime Achievement

Label of the Year

Young Artist of the Year

Artist of the Year

Orchestra of the Year

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