A newcomer and three longtime artistic associates of the Berliner Philharmoniker are guests of the concert series Piano this year: Francesco Piemontesi, Krystian Zimerman, Piotr Anderszewski and Maurizio Pollini. Four completely different musical personalities, but one thing unites them: Despite their superior technical skills, they never rely on superficial virtuosity or brilliance, but know how to wrest new, unfamiliar perspectives from the music.

First Viennese School versus Avantgarde

In his still young career, the 32-year-old Francesco Piemontesi has already earned the reputation of a brilliant interpreter of Mozart. According to the press, his Mozart astonishes, he transcends the master’s music and envelops it in a cloak of timeless beauty. So, his debut in Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts simply has to include a Mozart work. He will play the Fantasy in D minor, which is regarded as a notable example of Mozart’s stupendous art of improvisation. The piece forms part of an exciting programme: Francesco Piemontesi contrasts this, plus the Variations in F minor by Joseph Haydn and the Piano Sonata in A Major by Ludwig van Beethoven – all piano works of the First Viennese School – with two piano pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen, in which the composer, inspired by his experience with electronic music, plays with the contradictions of rhythmic precision and interpretive uncertainty.

Schubert’s last sonatas

Krystian Zimerman has been of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s most esteemed guest artists since his debut in 1976. His spectacular victory at the Chopin Competition the year before had given him his entree into the international concert scene. Under Herbert von Karajan, Seiji Ozawa, Claudio Abbado, Erich Leinsdorf, Valery Gergiev and Sir Simon Rattle, he has performed the great piano concertos of the 19th and 20th centuries with the orchestra. The Berliner Philharmoniker recently released a recording of Witold Lutosławski’s Piano Concerto with him, a work that was written by the Polish composer for Krystian Zimerman. However, the pianist has so far given only one solo recital as part of the Philharmoniker’s concerts – in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his performing career. All the better then, that this season he will appear not only as an orchestral soloist, but also with his own piano recital in which, in the last two piano sonatas of Franz Schubert, he will demonstrate his unique performing style, his unerring sense of colour nuances and his deep understanding of the emotional aspects of the music.

Penchant for Bach

Like Krystian Zimerman, his fellow countryman Piotr Anderszewski can also be heard this season in both a solo recital and as a guest of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In contrast to his older colleague, Anderszewski previously appeared mainly in the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation’s chamber music concerts. As varied as the programmes of his piano recitals have been, they always included one constant: Johann Sebastian Bach. During his last solo recital in 2012, he devoted himself exclusively to the Baroque master and impressed his audience by his transparent, articulate playing. This time, the pianist performs the two highly virtuoso partitas B major BWV 825 and E Minor BWV 830. He contrasts these with the 14 Bagatelles by Béla Bartók and Janáček’s Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 “From the street”, written as a tribute to a young Czech carpenter who was killed during a demonstration in Brno.

Compelling virtuosity, thrilling expression

The Italian Maurizio Pollini is also an esteemed artistic partner of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The intensive musical friendship between the orchestra and pianist began in 1970 with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto. He has played all the major piano concertos with the orchestra: Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Bartók, Schoenberg – and Mozart on many occasions. The performances with his friend and fellow artist Claudio Abbado are legendary. But it took until 2011 before Pollini gave a solo recital at the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. Since then, he has appeared on four occasions with his own solo programme. He has always included works by Chopin, contrasted with another composer – for ever since the eighteen-year-old Pollini won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1960, he has been seen as a specialist in the work of the Polish composer.