Preludia - Unofficial website for Rafal Blechacz


May 25, 2008

Hidekazu YOSHIDA's thoughts on CD

You are the happiest if you really enjoy it.
-----Argerich, Repin and Blechacz

By Hidekazu YOSHIDA
“Record Geijutsu(Music)”, December 2007

Hidekazu YOSHIDA is one of the representative music critics in Japan.
Based on his long experience and deep knowledge of music, he describes the beauty of music in-depth. He uses very plain and sensible words but his description is convincing.
Born in 1913, he is now 95 year old.

I this article, first he reflects on performance of Ravel, Beethoven by Martha Argerich, her duo performance of Kreutzer Sonate with Vadim Repin. He then gives thought to Beethoven’s violin concerto D Major op62 played by Repin with Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Riccardo Muti.

In both performances by Argerich and Repin, Yoshida says that they reminded him of music played by older generations, like Ignacy Friedman(1882~1948), Yehudi Menuhin, and Wilhelm Furtwängler that Yosida used to listen to when he was young. He says he felt performances by Argerich and Repin quite refreshing and “new” compared to the performances of today, because nowadays, many musicians try to show “unique” interpretations which are different from original intention of composers. He says it is interesting and asks to the readers; “What is new?” for the music.
Then he starts to talk about Rafał Blechacz.

On this occasion, let me say that recently I heard the CD “Chopin 24 Preludes and others” of a young pianist called Rafał Blechacz. I was told that he is quite a talent, making a clean sweep of the 1st prize, Mazurkas, Polonaise, Concerto and Sonata Awards in 2005 Chopin Competition.

When I listened to Blechacz’s Preludes, I recalled Argerich’s old CD of the same Chopin music. Her music which came upon in my memory was more enjoyable than that of this young man sounding now in front of me. Whether the piece is swift or slow, mechanic or beautifully sung, Argerich’s recording was full of sparkling ability.

However, as I kept listening to Blechacz after op-28, from A flat Major (op posth.) to 2 Nocturnes op 62, I noticed that they are close to performances of Chopin players of former times. I found elegance here and there that reminds me of those old days.

His Chopin is different from more recent versions of, for example, Maria Joao Pires and Krystian Zimerman. Definitely his is different from Ivo Pogorelic and Pletnev. Not only different from them, Blechacz’s Chopin has something to let you return back to the music of Chopin that you heard once.

I am not the person who always carefully follows Chopin performances, so I might be wrong. But listening to Blechacz, I feel something different from the recent trend in fundamentals of understanding not only Chopin but also the music as a whole. This could be related to the fact that he was praised in a rare manner of getting sweeping victory in 2005 competition. His music could suggest us for direction to feel more of nostalgia for the music in the past rather than the reproduction of old music.

May 24, 2008

Japanese critics review on CD Preludes

Reviews on CD: Preludes-24, op.28, Prelude in A flat opus posth, Prelude op.45
Nocturnes op.62, and Mazurka op.50-1, Chopin, Rafał Blechacz (p)
Excerpt from Record Geijutsu (music), Novemter edition, 2007

Born on June 30th, 1985, Rafał Blechacz is still 22 years old. Young but already a person of great renown. When he was 18 years old, he got the Second Prize at the 5th International Young Pianist Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan together with Alexander Kobrin since the first prize was not granted.

At the age of 20, he unanimously won the 15th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. He also won three special prizes: the best performance of the mazurkas, polonaise and the concerto. I have had opportunities to listen to his recordings before, but this CD, the debut recording from Deutsche Grammophon is the first one that completely convinced me of his excellent talent.

The album is a recording of the complete Chopin Preludes- 24 pieces of op.28, Prelude In A Flat Opus Posth and Prélude op. 45, coupled with the two Nocturnes op. 62, arguably the climax of Chopin’s achievements in his late years. The disk for the Japanese market contains an additional bonus track of mazurka op. 50-1.

Koji Shimoda, Japanese music critic quotes in the booklet of the Japanese CD what Blechacz said to explain why he has chosen op. 28 as main pieces for the recording. Blechacz says; “It is because these are the works that I have learned for the longest and most in-depth, playing in concerts as well as at the competition.”

His truly refined performance is the testimony to these words, demonstrating the noticeably outstanding talent of this young Pole. There is neither aggressiveness nor pretentiousness. He seems to try to maintain the music form intact rather than asserting himself in his honest performance with the quality modesty. And still, he gives us the impression that he is really remarkable. His tone is just beautiful, and he gives renditions of the work without any exaggeration.

It is extremely rare for me to see a young pianist like him play Chopin in such a tranquil manner. That’s being said, listening to a part of op. 28-16, for example, is amazing and convinces me that he is an authentic virtuoso. He is a musician of exceptional talent. I sincerely hope that he is taking a path steadily as the “chosen orthodox”.
〔The CD in strongly recommended〕            By Jiro Hamada

The first recording by Blechacz after he transferred to Deutsche Grammophon. In liner notes, Koji Shimoda excerpts Blechacz’s words about why he selected 24 Preludes for his DG debut. His words are quite simple: the music suits to his sensitivity well; besides, he learned the works sufficiently and deeply, and played them quite a few times.

Contrary to the cliché, the more I listen to the recording, the better I am aware of the truth and dignity of his words. His performance has no pretension and its quality reaches the possible highest degree of perfection while reminding us of his pure devotion to playing the music.

He is not a type of some Russian young or mainstay pianists who have robust touch and send out definite aura. Rather, his performance could be regarded as modest and delicate. Indeed, he fascinates us with his quiet confidence and introversive pliable strength.

He plays each of pieces of Preludes in natural musical flow. When playing slow pieces, he leaves us with lingering charm by expressing every subtle nuance. He let us experience unprecedented dense time. Even in roaring moments, he never forgets innate grace and poetic sentiment. He is always sharp in technique and never lacks dynamic impact.

Blachacz says that he interprets each of 24 pieces on the premise that all of them constitute one integrated work. Therefore, it is challenging to try to express each of the pieces in detail and drama as one whole music. Clearly, he has achieved the twofold challenge successfully. He is a genuine, authentic musician.
〔The CD is strongly recommended.〕 By Tsutomu Nasuda

(About recorded sound)
He brings out to the full functions and tones that the piano could demonstrate as musical instrument. He plays the music conscientiously to the nearly perfect level. The recording was performed in the studio with good acoustics. However, he dose not count on the effective acoustics more than needed and strikes a superb balance between direct and indirect sounds. The sounds stretch right and left in natural and exquisite manner without any artificial articulation and noise.
〔I will give 93 scores out of 100 for the sound.〕 By Yoshiyuki Ishida

May 23, 2008

Yoshiko IKUMA's thoughts on Blechacz's piano

Ms. Yoshiko IKUMA is one of the most influential music journalists in Japan.
This is her contribution to the program booklet of Blechachz's concert at Mibu Public Hall during Japan tour in June, 2007.

Blechacz's pure music fulfilling heart and mind of the audience with inspiration

International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw has been leaving a lot of anecdotes and "famous" remarks; various events including scandalous ones have been talked about among people for years. We had anticipated that a new rounds of events--dramas--might be generated in the 2005 competition. It turned out that rather than leaving "interesting" remarks, most of the members of the jury expressed their feeling without words, by shedding tears deeply moved by the music they heard.

On Oct. 2, 2005, no sooner Blechacz began playing in the first round of the competition than one member of the jury after another started to shed tears. This phenomenon continued untile Blechacz won the first prize and played in the Winners' Recital.

I am talking about the jury of Chopin Competition--the renowned musicians from around the world who had played Chopin for long years, well versed with Chopin music, and had listened to countless Chopin performances. Listening to Blechacz's Chopin, tears ran down their cheeks. Blechacz achieved the outstanding feat of sweeping all special awards for the best performance of Mazurkas, polonaise and concerto. This is the evidence that his Chopin was acclaimed by almost all the jury transcending differences of nationality, ethnicity, gender and age.

Blechacz's piano performance has crystalline and beautiful tone, characterized by natural expression evoking Chopin himself. He never bluntly hits the keys. Maintaining appropriate tempo, he sings gently without becoming aggressive. I feel that in his performance, there is something that we have forgotten: genuine feeling and pure devotion to the music.

Leaflet of Japan Tour 2007

Blechacz respects his compatriot mentor Krystian Zimerman, getting his advice before the competition. Zimerman described Blechacz as follows:

"What is outstanding about Rafal is that he is quick to learn. It was amazing that he absorbed what I told him about five months before the competition and showed perfectly corrected performance in the competition which was the natural, pure and right Chopin style. I think that Rafal has awesome talent. Every time I listen to his playing, I notice he is upgrading himself a bit. I hope that he will not be hasty, taking his time to blossom his talent gradually and steadily".

Every time I listent to the performance of Blechacz, it has been making a leap forward. It is the result of strenuous efforts made by Blechacz who often says,"I feel more than happy when sitting in front of the piano. The day to day practice makes me grow."

One and half years have passed since the competition. Today, I am confident that he will again make an impression on the audience with more matured performance.

May 22, 2008

Review on Chopin Concerto in Tokyo 2007

Russian National Orchestra, the first orchestra operated by the private sector since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, conducted by Mikhail Pletnev, founder and artistic director, started the concert with Symphonic fantasia "Francesca da Rimini" of Tchaikovsky.

17 years have passed since the founding of the orchestra, and the performance was convincing to know that the orchestra successfully assembled excellent musicians.

Following this was Chopin piano concerto No.1 with Rafał Blechacz, the victor of the 15th International Chopin Competition in 2005 as a solist.

Blechacz was born on June 30, 1985 and became the first Polish winner of the Competition since 1975 when Krystian Zimerman clinched the victory, 10 years before Blechacz was born.

Although young, Blechacz performed so remarkably that I felt that he is a pianist with the highest perfection among the winners of the Chopin Competition after Zimerman.

With his stable technique and noble creativity, Blechacz demonstrated superb expressiveness in singing and colorific beauty, thus creating an unprecedentedly excellent performance of the Chopin concerto No.1.
Pletnev exquisitely supported him.

Then came Symphony No.9 of Dvorak. The arbitrary setting of tempo could make the music strange even with one false step, but the masterly technique of the orchestra kept it off.

Reviewed by Junichi Kunido, published in Japanese magazine "Ongaku-no-tomo,(Friend of music).
(on June 6, 2007 at Tokyo Opera City Hall)

Leaflet of the concert

May 21, 2008

Tadao AOZAWA's view on recital in Japan 2007

Rafał Blechacz appeared in the first recital of Etoile Series for four prominent young pianists of Saitama Arts Theater during his 2007 Japan Tour. He played J.S.Bach: Italian Concerto F major, F.Liszt: 3 Concert studies, C.Debussy: Estampes, F.Chopin: Barcarolle and 24 Preludes. As always, he played the music in a sincere and comfortable manner. At the same time, he showed the will to try to explore a new ground.

Bach started with the resolute allegro full of propulsion followed by the exquisite andante of clear sound, turning gears to sweep through the lively prest swiftly. The youthful expression is really refreshing.

He added expressions effectively to Liszt pieces with his well trained and controlled fingering. But I felt a weekness in his limited expressiveness.

In playing Debussy, he failed to fully bring out the attractiveness of the music in terms of sonority. The rhythm lacked energy. He played beautifully but I hope he will study the music more.

When Blechacz plays Chopin's Barcarolle, it sounds like a song of a youth who is ingenuous and innocent. His Preludes are pure and immaculate; there is nothing unnatural. At the same time, he showed a masterly performance in bold and articulately changing the tempos. He also demonstrated an exhilarating brilliant performance in, for example, B flat minor.

I am confident that Blechacz, a gifted pianist, is now entering in the transitional stage to transform himself into a pianist of even greater caliber.

May 20, 2008

Yudai MAJIMA's view on Blechacz recital in 2006

(This is an excerpt from the leaflet of Rafał Blechacz Piano Recital in June, 2007, where Yudai Majima, a Japanese music critic, looks back on the previous Blechacz recital in Japan in November, 2006.)

"Blechacz making remarkable progress."

The Blechacz recitals in 2006 Japan tour notably demonstrated his formidable talent. It is not too much to say that his performance overturned the common sense in Chopin music.

The Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw that Blechacz won in 2005 is proud of 80 years of history, turning out many great pianists who wow the audience with quality level of technique and musicality, including Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich and Krystian Zimerman.

Andrzej Jasiński, Chair of Jury of the 15th Competition says that recently the competition has put itself onto the path to return back to the original music of Chopin. This is reflected on the Polish efforts for the national edition of Chopin's scores, trying to defend its national prestige. It is not about going back to the past; it is about recognition of the fundamentals of the music.

It was Blechacz who fit exactly well with such a trend. With his tone highly transparent and sensitive in an unparalleled manner, his compelling, natural phrasing , and inner voice clearly expressed, Blechacz's performance evokes feeling of novelty. In 24 Preludes, in particular, he expressed a deep contemplation and melancholic feelings in a constrained, minimal amplitude. He was able to reflect on all kinds of scenery in Chopin's mind' eye that Chopin put in this music: sadness, anxiety, restlessness, yearning and hope. His approach is really unparalleled. His Chopin is of different quality; delicate and still dramatic.

When tracing Chopin's life, what is seen is nothing but grief. Has there been any other pianist who internalizes the grief of the composer into himself to express it so honestly than Rafal Blechacz? So much so especially in Blechacz's Mazurka that I shed tears involuntarily.

However, Blechacz's empathy with the composer is not limited to Chopin. It is already proved in the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition. And it is even more evident to everybody that Blechacz has shown tremendous growth since then.

How is he going to play works of Debussy and other composers as well as Chopin. My heart leaps up by just imagining it!

Leaflet of 2006 Japan Tour

May 18, 2008

Review on Rafał Blechacz's recital in Japan in 2004

Rafał Blechacz toured in Japan in July 2004, in commemoration of his winning the 2nd prize in the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in the previous year.
The schedule was as follows.

July 4  Concerto with Hamamatsu Symphony Orchestra, Hamamatsu
July 5  Recital at Izumi Hall, Osaka
July 7  Recital at Nagoya Shirakawa Hall, Nagoya
July 8  Recital at Takaoka Life-long Learning Center, Toyama
July 10 Recital at Saitama Arts Theater, Saitama
July 11 Recital at Amarume Hibiki Hall, Yamagata

This is a review on Rafał Blechacz recital on July 5, 2004 @Izumi Hall, Osaka Japan, appearing in the Japanese music magazine contributed by Mr. Tomoo Shiraishi.

It is interesting to read, because it is before Blechacz became renowned in the world by winning the 2005 Chopin Competition.

Poster of Concerto in Hamamatsu in July 2004

Rafał Blechacz won the 2nd prize in the 5th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2003 (no 1st prize was awarded).  Born in 1985, he is not yet 20 years old.   Young , but his performance was really cool-headed.

Rather than getting himself absorbed in the music, he maneuvered the instrument philosophically and he seemed to observe and ascertain the effectiveness of his interpretations.  The level of technical perfection was commendable.

He played Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase and Chopin polonaise op53 in a spirited manner but the performance did not compromise the noblemess of music because of his objectiveness.

For Debussy before intermission, his style was to give gradation to the firm touch by frequent use of pedals.  Overall, the sound was solid and the center of gravity was low.  I felt that the first piece of Estampes with accumulated rhythms like a gamelan is suitable for him rather than light sound of Suite Bergamasque.

What pleased me most was Chopin after the intermission. The flawless rendition of Nocturne op62 was brilliant.  But what intrigued me more was Mazurka op17.  Is his approach Polish way to put melodies and characteristic rhythms softly on the abundantly reverberating bass?  The way he showed a sensitive and shaky expression in A minor (op17-4) when the underlying bass was suddenly lost was really effective.

I do not think that Blechacz is a type of the pianist who performs any music shrewdly.  But looking at the secure selection of music for the recital, it does not look like he has solidified the direction as a pianist.  I am looking forward to watching carefully where he is going to from now on.

You can hear Chopin Mazurka op17 Blechacz performed in Aug. 2004 in Duszniki, Poland, next month of the Japan tour. here.

May 15, 2008

'Fryderyk'award-Grammy in Poland

On April 8, Rafał Blechacz received Fryderyk Award, a Grammy Award in Poland.

This is a report by Polish Radio at a time he was nominated.

Another reportby the same media on the day that in classical music, the most prestigious Fryderyk accolades went to Rafał Blechacz in the Best Recording category for his CD featuring Chopin’s Preludes.

The Polish media reported this event intensively.
This is an example of many reportings.(Polish)

Another example of Polish media report.(Polish)

A friend of mine who lives in Gdansk said that Blechacz did not appear at the venue of the televised award giving, and his deputy ( a lady) appeared to received the award. 

May 12, 2008

I feel at home playing Chopin

(From linernotes of CD "Chopin Complete Preludes")

A young Polish pianist makes his Deutsche Grammophon debut

In October 2005 an unassuming young man from the small northern Polish town of Nakło - concentrated yet open, modest almost to a fault - arrived in Warsaw for the 15th International Chopin Competition. I had heard him for the first time three months earlier and, although I did not know at the time who else would be participating, I was already certain that Rafał Blechacz would be among the competition's finest interpreters. His playing offered such poetry, maturity, poise and concentration as well as a phenomenal technique - sparkling, precise, luminous.

Since Krystian Zimerman won the 9th Competition in 1975, no Polish artist had emerged whose Chopin could sweep listeners away with a fresh approach, compelling personality and, above all, interpretative honesty. These attributes - coupled with his uncommon attitude of humility towards the music and the composer - seem to have characterized Rafał Blechacz's Chopin from his first involvement with it, and in Warsaw in 2005 they enabled him to garner all of the major prizes. In recognizing his exceptional talent, the jury decided for the first time in the competition's history not to grant a second prize. Observing him there and listening to his interpretations, one was convinced that they closely approached a Chopinesque ideal.

“It has been a long, natural process," says Rafał, “which began with the B major Nocturne op.32 no.1. But my view of Chopin was enriched by performing the music of other composers, especially Bach, the three great Viennese Classical composers and Debussy, for whom the control of colour and moulding of the sound are so essential." Blechacz impressed me with his interpretations of Viennese Classics during one of his recitals following the competition, and with an emotional poise rarely achieved by one so young. But it was in the Chopin group that I immediately sensed a union of kindred spirits: composer and performer. “Yes, I feel at home playing Chopin," he says. “Somewhere in my intuition, subconsciously, I feel that this is the way it should sound."

Growing up far from a major cultural centre, Blechacz was able to develop his talent in a conducive setting. His parents, neither of them musicians, provided him with the ideal environment for devoting himself to his work. They bought him recordings, drove him to piano lessons and took him to concerts. He commuted to Bydgoszcz, studying there initially with Jacek Polañski at the Artur Rubinstein High School, and then with Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroñ at the Bydgoszcz Music Academy, finishing his studies with her there at the end of June 2007.

“My professor opened the gates of art to me, including the vital importance of pianistic tone colour when she introduced me to Debussy. This helped prepare me for Chopin. I began to study his music under her tutelage and worked up my competition programme with her. Although the Chopin Competition is something sacred to us Poles, my teacher and I treated it as just one more stage in my development. There are many other competitions after which one could also begin a concert career. Mme Popowa-Zydroñ had always stressed this fact, adding: 'You could lose in every competition, but it is most important for you not to lose your love of music.'"

In Warsaw, Rafał was completely absorbed in his carefully assembled programme; his playing was never tentative or artificial. Perhaps only he was somewhat taken aback by his unprecedented success. “I did not expect so much," he says, “maybe because I didn't take part in all the surrounding hubbub. After each performance I went back home to Nakło. I rested, walked in the woods, didn't listen to the radio or read the newspapers. It was only at home afterwards that the realization dawned that my greatest dream had come true. And only then did I understand how many new challenges I now faced. Krystian Zimerman sent me a beautiful letter of congratulation and wrote that I could count on his help. Recently we spent a few days together. We talked and worked a lot. I feel that I have found a true friend."

In addition to a flood of recital and concert invitations, Blechacz's victory in Warsaw brought him a contract with Deutsche Grammophon. “It's exciting but a little overwhelming that my music will now become available to everyone and will be the subject of analysis and criticism. That's a great responsibility and the reason why - just as at the competition - I have tried to be as physically and mentally prepared for this recording as possible."

Why did the pianist choose the Preludes for his debut CD? “They're endlessly fascinating - their great variety encompasses so many different ideas. I've tried to shape the miniatures of op. 28 into a unit, a single entity having its own internal tension and drama. The Nocturnes of op. 62 I've been familiar with for a long time and feel that I've discovered a convincing way of interpreting these multi-faceted masterpieces. In these two works Chopin was far ahead of his time in terms of both harmony and colour. The B major invites comparisons with Impressionism."

When asked whether he favours a Classical or Romantic style of Chopin playing, Blechacz unhesitatingly opts for the former. “Not only extroverted interpretations but also introverted ones with inner discipline can leave the listener fulfilled. Mine is closer to what I would call a Mendelssohnian perspective, perhaps due to my earlier experience with the Classical repertoire. I have always strived to keep the musical form intact while bringing out as much detail as possible. When everything is laid out clearly and straightforwardly, it is so much easier to convey the emotions contained within a composition. That doesn't mean that I reject the Romantic style. I may not be as extroverted as some of the Russian pianists, but I think there will come a time for me to play Rachmaninoff."

Adam Rozlach

Blechacz Concerts in Europe (2008)

Rafał Blechacz started 2008 concert at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris on Jan. 27.

Mozart Piano Sonata K311
Chopin Preludes op 28

This is the link to the review (French)

If you get the text distorted, please try this site.

A rough English translation is here.

After having another recital in France, Blechacz moved on to a tour in Italy.

Jan. 31st, Feb. 1st & 3rd, at Milano, Auditorium
Blechacz played Chopin piano concerto No.1 with Orchestra di Milano conducted by Oleg Gaetano.

Before that, he received interview by Italian media. here(Italian).
The title is "I respect Italian music and Scarlatti's sonatas."

The concertos were followed by solo piano recitals.

Feb. 4th, 2008 at 21.00, Bologna, Teatro Manzoni
Feb. 6th, 2008 at 20.45, Monfalcone, Teatro Comunale
Feb. 8th, 2008 at 21.00, Perugia, Amici della Musica
Feb. 9th, 2008 at 16.00, Firenze, Teatro della Pergola
Feb. 10th & 11th, 2008 at 18.00 & 20.30, Napoli, Teatro di San Carlo
Feb. 12th, 2008 at 20.30, Roma, Aula Magna of the Rome University

Mozart piano sonata k311
Debussy Estampes
Szymanowski Vriations op3
Chopin Preludes op28

It is site of Polish radio about Rome concert.(English)

Another site of Polish radio about Rome.(English)

The Polish newspaper also reported the big feat.(Polish)
Another report by Polish media.(Polish)

This is the English version of a review on his recital in Monfalcone, Italy.
The original Italian review has already gone from the web.

After his tour in Italy, Blechacz followed through with tour in Switzerland.
The program was the same as Italy.

Feb. 27 Chopin Concerto with Berner Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrey Boreyko at Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds

Feb.28, 29 Same program at Kultur-Casino Bern

March 3 at Victoria Hall, Geneva

March 4 at Aula Magna de l'Université de Fribourg

March 7 at Tonhalle, Zürich

March 8 at Winterthur, Musikkollegium, Winterthur

This is CD review by Swiss media.(French)

The same media shows its expectation of Geneva recital.(French)

On March 31, Blechacz played in Heidelberg festival with the same program.

On April 11, Blechacz played Chopin concerto with Gran Canaria Orchestra conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow at Auditorio Alfredo Krausin, Canarian Islands, Spain. here

Autographic session at Zurich

May 11, 2008

Blechacz concerts in Europe (Autumn 2007)

In autumn 2007, Rafał Blechacz played for concerts in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Viena.

This page provides links to some related stories, interview, etc...

Sept. 12
Concert @Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts
Blechacz received an interview from the local media Ramifications.(French)

This is a machine-translated English version. (very good translation!)

Oct. 7
Amsterdam concertgebouw

Blechacz made debut in Piano master series and received big acclaim.
His performance was broadcast through the internet and heard around the world.
Quite a few Japanese fans enjoyed the excellent performance by getting up at 4 am in the morning. Also, a recorded performance was provided on the weekend.

Blechacz's official web site has some reviews on the concerts in Amsterdam and Viena.

Just before the concert in Amsterdam, Blechacz's CD Chopin Preludes was launched in Europe and Japan from Deutsche Grammophon.
In Poland, it obtained Platinum disk status in a few days.

The following is a copy of the DG Yellow News on the Platinum disk.

Rafał Blechacz’s Preludes Recording is Crowned with

Dear Rafał Blechacz DG Yellow News Subscribers,

After only five weeks after the international release date, Rafał Blechacz’s debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon has achieved "platinum" status for its sales in the classical music category in his native Poland. The album also received a "gold" award in the "international pop" and "local pop" categories. This exciting success bears witness to the
popularity Blechacz has earnt in his home country since winning the Warsaw Chopin Competition in 2005.

Rafał Blechacz was presented with the award last Saturday after a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in E minor at the Symphony Hall in Poznan. He thanked the audience in his own special way with a compelling rendition of Chopin’s Waltz in C sharp minor.

Our sincere congratulations to Rafał!

Your Deutsche Grammophon Web Team

Another media report to talk about winning the Platinum disk.

November 9
Commemorative concert was held in Poznan.
You can have a glimpse of the concert here.

November 14

This is the news that reports how his concert made Polish community in this country happy. (English)

This is Polish news on the concert.

November 18
Vienna Konzerthaus

This is the site of news in Vienna (German).

And this is a machine-translated English (good English!)

May 10, 2008

Blechacz North America Recital/CD Reviews

Rafał Blechacz played in debut recitals in five cities of North America in April and May, 2008.

April 27
Dalton Center Recital Hall, West Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan here

May 2
Chan Centre, University of British Colombia, Vancouver, Canada

May 4
Petit Trianon Centre, San Jose, California here

May 8
Oakmont Concert Series, Santa Rosa, California here

May 11
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, California

Mozart Sonata in D Major, KV 311
Debussy Estampes

Szymanowski Variations in B-flat Minor, Op. 3

Chopin 24 Preludes, Op. 28

The program is the same as that of European Tours in the 1st quarter of 2008.

The followings are reviews of these recitals in America and CD "Chopin Preludes" from DG.

April 27
Dalton Center Recital Hall, West Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
site of Rafał Blechacz.

Kalamazoo Gazette 2

May 2 Vancouver
The Vancouver Sun

The Vancouver Sun 2

May 4 San Jose
Mercury News

The Classical Music Guide Forums

May 8 Oakmont
Classical Sonoma, the North Bay

May 11 San Francisco


SFGate 2

f.y.e. entertainment

May 9, 2008

Blechacz's great success in North America (1)

In May this year,I had an opportunity to visit the United States to see concerts of Rafał Blechacz.

I was wondering if it would be better not to talk about this, because I could be beaten by eager Jananese fans. However, I was moved by the great success that I witnessed there. I believe reporting what I saw at the concerts is my duty.

I went to Vancouver and San Jose concerts.

Vancouver: University of British Columbia Chan Centre
San Jose: Le Petit Trianon Theatre

Mozart Sonata k 311
Debussy Estampes
Szymanowski Variations op3
Chopin Preludes op28
Encore: Chopin Waltz op64-2
Moszkowski Etincelles (San Jose only)

Vancouver, a multi-ethnic society, has 2,500 polish residents.

Ten years ago, a former Polish pianist (now a computer engineer) founded the Chopin Society of Vancouver, the organizer of the recital, hoping that it will promote Chopin music more to the people of Canada.

Prior to the concert, representative of the Chopin Society greeted to the audience with Polish and Chinese as well as English.

University of British Columbia in Vancouver's Chan Center concert hall

It was chilly and drizzling on Friday when the concert was held in Vancouver. However, supported by the organizer's policy to let people, especially families and students listen to the excellent music at affordable price, the hall of 1000 plus seats with good acoustics were filled with men and women, old and young, including infants. Some additional chairs were brought out.

In San Jose, on the other hand, where 30 percent of the population is Hispanic and I felt Spanish is the language of the majority on the train, almost of all the audeience were English-speakers.
The Bay Area Steinway Society sponsored the concert here.

The Society holds piano concerts on regular basis by inviting excellent pianists from around the world. Members of the Society have discerning views of piano performance and it seemed that people here do not know about Rafał Blechacz yet. Therefore, audience here is very different from that of Vancouver.

"Do you know how to pronounce his last name?" Before the concert on Sunday, an woman asked to the ticket desk and the question was forwarded to me. (Because the receptionist knew that I came from Japan to see Rafał's concert.) I told her how to pronounce "Blechacz". It turned out that she was the President of the Bay Area Steinway Society, the sponsor.

On opening of the concert, she made greetings to the audience and said,
"Now let me introduce the pianist, Rafał BLECHACZ. I was trained for the pronunciation this afternoon". This made some people smiling.

In Vancouver, the big applaud was mixed with the shout of admiration and whistling. I felt I was in the sport stadium where the home team clinched the victory.
I really felt that all the people in the hall were deeply moved by the performance and rejoiced from the heart.

San Jose's Le Petit Trianon Theatre

The following is my impression of the concert in San Jose.

I felt that Rafał charmed the audience by visual elements as well as the sound more than before: stunning actions at the conclusion of phrases, more deiversified musical expressions and more powerful rendering.

As was described in the review for the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Michigan, he played Mozart swift and crisp, sometimes with playfullness and he looked full of joy.

In the third movement, at adagio in the 231 measure soon before the tempo primo, he showed cadenza-like play, using right and left hands alternately, letting some in the audience giggle.

It was as if the skillful jockey reined an excellent horse to prance and jump elegantly and rhythmically. The sound he produced was cristal clear and serene.

For Debussy, he completely changed to render deeply soft sound like velvet. From my seat (3rd from front, the leftist), I was able to see his right hand and I saw the whole range of fingers was used lithely. Tears appeared down involuntarily. I felt that the Debussy of that night was quite different from that I heard last year in Tokyo.

Without leaving the stage, he moved on to Szymanowski. Hanging down his head, he seemed trying to concentrate his mind, while late comers were being seated, causing creaking sound.

I thought people here in the United States are not farmiliar with this piece, but I felt the audience was attracted to the music immediately and listening to the music intently. I felt that all the people were deeply impressed.

I saw a man in fromt of me was surprised shrugging and shaking his head when seeing the pianist's upper body floated from the seat and dropped down when playing fortissimo chords of many fingers.

In San Jose, I had arrived earlier for the venue. Luckily enough, I was able to hear the rehearsal in the lobby.

The door between the hall and the loby is made of wood embedded with glass window, so I could hear the piano sound from the lobby.

The fact was that Rafał spent most of the time for Szymanowski. He played the final variation again and again, both slowly and in tempo. The music has been one of his repertoire for yeas and still he was making these efforts. It affected me profoundly.

San Jose venue lobby

The rehearsal started at around 5:15 pm, relatively late. He continued practice until 20 minutes before 7:00 pm, the schaduled opening time. Quite a few people had already been in the lobby.

In addition to Szymanowski, he played Moszkowski, Chopin's op 28-21,22,23 and 24, and Mozarts's 2nd and 3rd movements.

During the concert, I thought his efforts were rewarded when listening to the final variation of Szymanowski which was very very powerful and impressive.

Then started Chopin. In Chopin, it was like that the keyboards were getting closer to him. As he usually asserts, he played the 24 works as one integrated cycle. The way he linked the pieces was "divine" work.

The performer and the instrument were completely harmonized. Inspired audience was also assimilate into that harmonized unit.

Everyone was keenly watching the pianist with the body thrust forward, sending encouraging energy to him. Rafał, on his part, on receiveing the energy from the audience, radiated another inspiration back to the people. I felt a perfect spiritual cycle was created between the musician and listners.

After the concert, I heard some conversations of the people.

"He is a true super-virtuoso, isn't he?"
"He has an unbelievable super-technique".
"His playing Szymanowski's pieces, especially in low-register chords, was as if he was playing Rachmaninoff".
"He was getting greater towards the end of the program".
"He is really playful".
"The last piece (Moszkowski) was great! Very swift!"

All the people had their eyes shining with joy.
They were really delighted.

San Jose's hall with 300-plus seats is old and has very good and natural acoustics. It fits quite well with Rafał's natural stature, giving the audience the best-of-breed sound.

After the concert, an autographic session was held. The small lobby was filled with excited people seeking for Rafał's sign and taking the pianist's photos.

Rafał responds to each of all fans with smile.

My turn came, and I said,
"Thank you Rafał. For me, today's performance was best".

He immediately came back.
"Best? Better than Vancouver?"

"Well, honestly speaking". I faltered.

With bright smile, he said.
"We will see in Prague?"

With "Best", I meant that the performance in San Jose was best of all the live concerts that I attended so far. I came to know Rafał Blechacz just last year, threfore, this was the 6th live concert that I saw. (Four concerts in Japan plus Vancouver and San Jose.)

The Steinway and the stage in San Jose

There was one more thing that drew my attention while waiting for the start of the concert. I saw one staff of the Bay Area Steinway Sosiety was looking for the "pillow", saying that the bench in the hall was too short for Rafał. But it seems that he could not find out appropriate pillow and said that a small carpet was inserted below the bench. Actually, I do not know how this issue was solved in the end, but, if the height of the chair was really too short for Rafał, the performance he showed that night was really amazing.

I wonder if he created that great music under such a disadvantageous condition.

Thank you, Rafał.
It was a really excellent concert.

May 8, 2008

Blechacz's Great Success in North America (2)

A Blechacz' fan who has been supporting the pianist for years sent me a comment after reading the report No.1.

He said, "My impression is that his approach to Szymanowski changed fairly since Hamamatsu."

I was interested in the comment. Is it real? So I listened to the CD of Hamamatsu Competition.
I felt it was very different.

In Hamamatsu, he plays at the tempo and volume that he can afford.
It is very beautiful rendition making me confortable.

This time, however, what I listened to was more furious music with risky speed and drastically wide range of volume. I felt as if I was pulled abruptly and thrown into the depth of the steep world he created.

He rehearsed Szymanowski repeatedly. Did he try to creat this special world of music?

As I wrote, I had an opportunity to hear his rehearsal in the loby of Le Petit Trianon Theatre in San Jose.

I heard the scale first, and then Szymanowski's variations again and again...

"Rafał started studying philosophy".

After a while, Rafał's father, came out of the concert hall and talked to me.

We had conversation for a while, and this topic appeared.

"Is Rafał enrolled in the university?"
"No, he is getting individual teaching".

For Rafał, studying philosophy is as important as music. He should also expand repertoire. He is quite busy. But he is young. So I believe he will make it.

Mr. Blecahcz talked to me with quiet and stable smile.

Therefore, next year's Japan tour should be shortened to between Feb. 5 and Feb. 25. A total of seven concerts will take place: two concertos and five solo recitals.

Mr. Blechacz always accompanys Rafał on his concert tour to support him so that he can concentrate on the music.

In San Jose's concert, I witnessed the father seated on the audience seat ernestly keeping his eyes fixed upon his son on the stage.

"The recital in Michigan, the debut concert in the United States was well accepted, right?" I asked him.

"Yes, I read the review of Michigan. The review in Vancouver is also good".

He looked very happy.

"Chicago has about a million polish residents. In Vancouver, there are 2500. I do not know about San Jose".

In the middle of the conversation, he brought cookies on the blue napkin.
"Please take it. Please".

I was wondering if the cookies were for energy supply before the stage. The round butter cookies with herbs in them tasted good.

The reason why Mr. Blechacz came down to me for chatting was because I was able to talk to him in the post-concert reception held in Vancouver two days before.

The reception was organized by the Vancouver Chopin Society to raise fund. To join the reception, it was necessary to enter the name and pay donation beforehand. So while in Japan, I had communication with the person in charge and was able to secure the space.

The donations thus collected will be used for the operation of the Society and support of young promising artists.

I had an invitation letter sent to me at home in Tokyo.

It read:
"To the Vancouver Chopin Society 10th Anniversary Gala & Fundraising reception...

Approx. 10:10 Introduction of the Maestro and Dignitaries.

"Who is the Maestro?" I was wondering.
"Ah! Rafał is Maestro!"

Poster for the Vancouver recital

In the reception, however, both Rafał and his father were surrounded by VIPs, people related to the Sponsor, Polish people in particular, and it seemed impossible to find a second to talk to.

I was a part of the long line of people waiting for the opportunity. While waiting, I was chatting with two teenagers: a Korean and a Chinese origin. Both are students in Vancouver.

After waiting for long, long time, we found an eye of the storm.
Now Rafał is alone.
The two students hesitated a moment. So I decided to talk to Rafał first.

"Hello. I am a fan from Japan".
The moment I talked to him, a Polish speaking lady kidnapped Rafał.

We had lost a one-in-a-million chance!
But Rafał returned to us.

He smiled and asked to me.
"You are Japanese. But do you live in Vancouver?"
"No, I came from Japan. Could you please read this later?"

I presented him with the envelop containing copies of Rafał's article in the Japanese music magazine with my English translation and a white handkerchief, and asked him for sign on CD cover.

"Thank you very much. Now let me introduce my friends".
I delivered Rafał to two teenagers who were anxiously waiting for.

That is all I was able to talk with Rafał on that occasion.

After that in the reception, I had an opportunity to talk with the person of the Chopin Society whom I had had contact to join the reception.

"In Japan, you have Rafał Blechacz's fans club, right?"
A tall, friendly gentleman talked to me.

I enjoyed pleasant conversation with him. Shortly after that, he introduceed to me Rafał's father.

"Do you know a fan coming from Japan?"

So I was able to introduce myself to Rafał's father.
On leaving the venue, I talked to the father again and told him that I would come to San Jose recital also.

Mr. Blechacz asked me,
"So you are transferring there tomorrow? What time is your flight?"
Coincidentally, my flight seemed to be the same as the Blechaczs.

The father said,"We maybe see at the airport tomorrow".
"Yes, maybe..or not maybe". (Oh, my god!)

Vancouver's reception

Next day, at Vancouver International Airport.
I went through the security check at the terminal for the U.S., and was sitting in the Asian food cafe and had grilled chicken and rice.

I saw Rafał and Mr. Blechacz slowly walking down the corridor leading to the gate. Rafał shouldered a black backpack with both hands free (for protection?) and Mr. Blechacz were carrying black bags.

I looked down. I thought I could not disturb them.

In the latest article of the Japanese music magazine, Rafał said,
"I find time to be relaxed and read books during flight and transfer as well as stay at hotel".

When there is a concert, he devotes all body and soul to playing the instrument. Very often, the reception follows like last night.

During the reception, both Rafał and Mr. Blechacz were talking with surrounding supporters who were excited all the time.

Neither Rafał nor Mr. Blechacz could eat or drink.
There is always someone talking to them.

I thought that they would like to have quiet time during transfer and at the hotel without being disturbed.

When I went to the gate lobby, I saw them sitting in the open cafe adjacent to the loby.

I went away to the bench of different gate and worked on PC.

Minutes before the departure time, there was a call to passengers with priority boarding right.

I saw Rafał smiling when his ticket was checked by the crew.
How polite he is!

On arriving at San Francisco International Airport, I was at the baggage claim waiting for the bag. I saw Rafał and Mr. Blechacz walking down the staircase.

One thing weighed on me. I had a chocolate box with me that one of the high school students at the reception asked me to deliver to Rafał.
She was earnestly writing the letter to Rafał on the bus and it stuck to me.

I decided and came up to Rafał.
"I am very sorry to disturb you, Mr. Blechacz. This is the present from my Korean friend. She could not give it to you last night and asked me for delivery. She wrote a letter to you that is in the bag".

Rafał said, "So she wanted to give it to me last night, but she could not?" as if he was making sure the question during media interview.
Then he smiled and looked into the bag happily.

"We will see on Sunday?" he said to me.

I do not think Rafał remembered me, but he suggested the topic that is common among us. He may have been informed about me by his father.
I thought he is smart and nice.

The baggage conveyer started moving and I found my suitcase appearing. I took it and looked back to say thank you to Rafał and Mr. Blechacz.

Mr. Blechacz smiled quietly.
Rafał said "Bye baaaa-ye!" with a beaming smile, waving right hand widely.

I was wondering what secret does his mother have to raise her son so sweet.

Back in Japan, now I have no solid sense that I had a conversation with RAFAŁ BLECHACZ at the baggage corner in the SF Airport.

San Jose autographic session

One more thing that shows how sweet a person Rafał is.
It was at the autographic session in San Jose.

When I put the concert program in front of him, he turned a page, asking,
"Maybe, the photo page is better?"
I faltered, "W,well, which is better..?"

He swiftly returned to the original page, put sign and said,
"I am writing your name. What is your name?"

By so saying, he wrote down my name with his sign.

I was really delighted.

May 1, 2008