- Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
Less prolific in the recording studio than most pianists of his stature, Krystian Zimerman chooses his projects carefully and ensures that every release bearing his name will be worthy of the anticipation. Even when he's returning to a monumental warhorse like the Brahms First Piano Concerto -- he initially recorded it 20 years ago -- it almost goes without saying that the results will be fresh, gripping, and utterly persuasive. In this most symphonic of concertos, it's no small benefit that Zimerman collaborates with Sir Simon Rattle and the brilliant Berlin Philharmonic (recording in the studio, a departure from many of Rattle's recent live CDs from Berlin). Still, Zimerman's tremendously eloquent reading of the solo part is the main event. His pacing is superb: The immense first movement unfolds with assertive force (and, of course, poetic detours along the way), but Zimerman withholds his full dramatic power until the thunderous climax of its last minutes. Likewise with the muscular finale, where the closing accelerando is perfectly calculated to round off the epic totality of the concerto. With all of the elements -- soloist, conductor, orchestra, and the choice of work -- perfectly in alignment here, this recording is a shoo-in for the shortlist of the Brahms concerto's great performances.