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Dec 23, 2008

Reviews on Blechacz Chopin concerto No.1 in Berlin

A review posted on The Berliner Zeitung (German center-left daily newspaper) on Dec.22, 2008.

The pianist Rafał Blechacz debuted in Berlin with the RSB
Jan Brachmann

Merciful heavens - He plays the piano beautifully! Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz is just 22 years old.
Three years ago - when he was still 18 - he won the International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw.
Deutsche Grammophon - ie the Universal Group - has already produced two CDs with him.
He is sought after. But what does he? Pulls back.
They say that he prefers playing the organ in his Polish homeland community to demonstrating his piano play in the world.
He gives only about 40 concerts per year.
The Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RSB) led by Marek Janowski, got one of them:
On Saturday Blechacz gave his Berlin Philharmonic debut with Chopin's First Piano Concerto in E minor op 11.


This concerto is delicate in many ways, which is shown here once more.
How is the first movement of Allegro Maestoso risoluto?
Majestic and resolute is really only the orchestral opening.
It stands like an armed cherub in front of a spacious paradise that follows.
Chopin wished that this movement is played "with moderate strength and guts."
This year an exemplary recording (Mirare) appeared with the pianist Boris Berezovsky and the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris under John Nelson.
Courteously taut, but slim in the tone of the soloist, the orchestra strings occupy sparsely and thus the woodwind soloists are valued - you can hear this concerto on the CD.

Janowski, however, had many strings of RSB gathered in the hall.
That made the sound wonderfully soft, removing fog -
but it made particularly difficult for the solo bassoonist and the solo hornist to demonstrate the work appearing as favorite vehicles of the piano..
Blechacz also adopted - what is appropriate here - some freedom in tempo, requiring Janowski high adaptability.
The conductor has been very cautious and had much experience to respond,
but in smaller orchestra such a maneuver would have been played out probably even more happily.

"With moderate strength and guts" - Blechacz lays the accent on "moderate".
He is a player with the finest nuance.
His pianissimo, particularly at the end of the second movement, really was beautiful for crying.
And he did Rubato, therefore with Chopin, when stretching, essentialy grabbing basic rate of compelling sense for what the moment requires.
However where strength was used, he sometimes lacked reserves;
at highlights (climax?) where you may have deduced, he continued to fracture and contrast.
Blechacz was celebrated wildly.
The applause placed already as the orchestra still had two bars to play
while Blechacz already jumped from the stool. Sometimes beautiful, something.

With moderate strength and guts, without all showing-off,
then followed by "Ein Heldenleben" by Richard Strauss.
Janowski led shrewdly and accurately through a score of fully good-natured irony.

Original review (German)
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Another review from Berliner Morgenpost on Dec.23

That was a bold combination: "Ein Heldenleben" by Strauss and the 1st Piano Concerto by Chopin.

Where are the contact points here?
That Chopin fairly bad instrumented and his romantic concerto sounds is compact and suitable for a monster piece in 1900?
Or that Chopin had much success in the women's world so far and a 'woman's living hero' led?

Rafał Blechacz, Poland's new miracle pianist, decided to deny this connection anyway.
He played the E-minor concerto by Chopin without salon buzz, without sentimental fuss,
that usually betrays itself through speed fluctuations and extreme dynamic spreads.
With Blechacz, there is not any decadence, and everything is clear, powerful, light and sunny.
He has that noble, intensive sound at his disposal that only nonpareils (unparalleled persons) possess.
Admittedly one can become prominent also without this sound,
but for the ascent to the class of pianists with rare excellency and personality, it is indispensable.

The 22-year old, completely unpretentious Blechacz is only at the beginning of this ascent.
However it's already certain that he will reach the goal.
Because the fantastic balanced attack he executes, an ability to balance between the big picture and the minuteness speaks itself amusingly on his behalf.
Small fuzziness seemed only in the chords movement.

The Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin acted even stronger after it - and at the same time pleasant tempers.
(The rest of comment on Strauss "Heldenleben" -"Hero's Life"- omitted.)

The real "Hero" of this concert was called Rafał Blechacz.

Berliner Morgenpost on Dec.23 (German)

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To all the fans of Rafał Blechacz's piano,
Best wishes for a peaceful and blessed holidays
and much peace, love and joy to you all in 2009.

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