Krystian Zimerman stands as one of the most sensitive and controversial concert pianists to emerge in the latter half of the twentieth century. His extensive recordings with Deutsche Grammophon cover a broad range of repertoire from the classical period to modernity, including the complete piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms, important works by Schubert, Liszt, Grieg, Bartók, and Szymanowski, and all of Debussy's preludes. At the same time, early in his career Zimerman established a reputation for maintaining dauntingly high personal artistic standards, being very selective in undertaking projects, and limiting himself to only a small number of concert engagements each year.
Initially a student of his pianist father, and later, Andrzej Jasinski and Artur Rubinstein, Zimerman demonstrated his nuanced and distinctive technique at a young age. He was already concertizing as a very young boy, and was not yet 20 years old when he took first prize in the 1975 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. During the 1980s and 1990s, Zimerman performed concertos with the world's finest orchestras and conductors, including the premiere of Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (which was composed for and dedicated to the pianist).
Zimerman's creation of the Polish Festival Orchestra in 1999 remains one of his greatest accomplishments. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Chopin, Zimerman personally selected an ensemble of young musicians, which he then led in unusually numerous and rigorous rehearsals of Chopin's two piano concertos. The orchestra developed a highly idiomatic sound, one that brought out intricate subtleties from Chopin's oft-maligned orchestral scores and illuminated a new level of interplay between soloist and orchestra in these works. Once they had fully developed their unique approach, Zimerman and the PFO undertook extensive world tours, performing Chopin's piano concertos for audiences the world over. They also released a recording that sold out quickly and caused a noted division among critics, who, as is has often been the case with Zimerman's work, were sharply divided between engaged enthusiasts and appalled traditionalists.