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Elegance and fury

Analise Lipari | Monday, November 14, 2005

Pianist Krystian Zimerman’s performance at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Wednesday night featured a fascinating array of elegance and fury in his selected pieces. His concert was a relief for any midweek boredom, showcasing his impressive skill and sophisticated selection of pieces.

Zimerman opened with Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, “Pathétique.” The speed and strength of the opening movement grabbed the attention of the audience, and Zimerman’s subtle skill as a pianist was apparent in the intricacy of each note.

The first half of the performance continued with “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales” by French composer Maurice Ravel. Here the pace of the concert slowed dramatically, which had a calming effect on the audience. The final piece prior to intermission, “Ballade” by Frederic Chopin, cemented that tone of tranquility.

The Chopin pieces in particular displayed Zimerman’s mind-blowing artistry and deftness at playing this most classic of instruments. With each increasingly complex piece, Zimerman’s hands flew more and more wildly over the keys of his piano. It was truly remarkable to behold.

The second half of the concert opened with two Mazurkas by Chopin. A Mazurka is a traditional Polish folk dance, and the playing of this type of lesser-known piece was a creative introduction to Zimerman’s home culture for the audience. The Mazurkas were less energetic than was probably needed, however, after the tone of the previous two pieces. The continued subdued mood of the concert lost the attention of the audience, and it took the concert’s final piece, Chopin’s third Sonata, to bring the energy level back up.

The Sonata was, in a word, magnificent. The four separate movements were distinct but thematically connected, and the final moments were dramatic and exhilarating. It was in this final piece that Zimerman’s talent exhibited at full force, with increasing speed and intricacy proving no obstacle for the pianist.

“I’ve played the piano for 11 years, and I have heard a lot of amazing people play, but nothing to compare to Zimerman,” freshman Emily Doll said. “What can I not say about him? He was spectacular.”

Historically, Zimerman travels with his own piano, and his familiarity with the instrument is apparent in his inherent ability to play. The crisp simplicity of his performance – Zimerman alone with his instrument – lent to the focus of the evening to the music itself.

“[This] allows him to eliminate, or reduce to the absolute minimum, everything that might distract him from purely musical issues,” his official biography states.

Regrettably, the average age of the concertgoers was somewhat above that of a typical college student. Perhaps due to the nature of the music selection or the weeknight scheduling of the concert, the absence of a significant number of students was noticeable.

“I think it’s a shame that such a world-renowned pianist didn’t receive a larger turnout from the student body,” freshman Laura Benca said. Attracting students to such “high-art” type concerts is undoubtedly difficult, however, and Zimerman fortunately did not suffer for it during his performance.

An impressive dedication to his craft lends Zimerman to deserved praise, and the four encores he received Wednesday night proved this point apparent.