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Krystian Zimerman | Simon Rattle & BPO's Piano Concerto & Symphony #2' Makes Iowa Public Radio's 2015 Mega-Meta-List

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Today's output of classical albums is (pardon me while I scribble on the back of an envelope) something like triple what it was a generation ago. I won't vouch for that exact ratio, but I will for Anne Midgette's description of how it feels: "Keeping up with the stream of new releases is like trying to drink from a fire hose." Now imagine trying to capture a hose's jet-spray in a bucket, and you'll see why making a classical "best-of-year" list in 2015 struck many writers as a thankless task, even a hopeless one. Yet that didn't stop more of us than ever from trying - perhaps enough of us to be called a crowd. Could that crowd, taken together, have some kind of collective wisdom?

That was more or less the premise behind my "Classical Mega-Meta-List" last year (inspired by economist /blogger Tyler Cowen). I tallied every "best of year" list I could find - a total of 36, comprising about 100 writers.  This year I found far more: 64 lists, with at least 160 contributors, which makes this year's meta-list 60-77% more mega. It's not surprising that almost twice as many releases made the final cut, defined by being chosen for more than three best-of-year lists. Last year, 28 albums reached that threshold; this year, 50 albums did. That's a 78% increase.

Krystian Zimerman | Simon Rattle & BPO's 'Lutosławski Piano Concerto & Symphony #2' received 8-10 votes in this pole.

The great Polish composer first considered a piano concerto in 1938, when he was himself a young virtuoso. What stopped him was World War II. Lutoslawski served in the Polish army, was captured and imprisoned by the Nazis, escaped from their camp, then played piano in Warsaw cafes. He got out of Poland in 1944, but when he did, lost almost all the music he had composed by then.  So he didn't write his concerto until fifty years later, in 1988. He was inspired by a supreme musician of our era, the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman, and he tailored the writing to Zimerman's unique style. Zimerman premiered it in 1988 with the composer conducting (it was Lutoslawski's first conducting date in Poland since the Communist takeover), and they recorded it together. But Zimerman has continued to perform it since then, and now felt ready to record it again. This is the triumphant result, coupled with Simon Rattle's brilliant live recording of the composer's Symphony no. 2.

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