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Sep 29, 2008

Polish critics highly evaluates Blechacz's new CD

On Sept. 28, Polskie Radio broadcast a program about Rafał Blechacz's new CD "sonatas--haydn, mozart and beethoven"
where critics had conversations each other after listening Rafał Blechacz's thought on the CD which had been recorded beforehand via telephone interview.

I heard the program and I was impressed by Blechacz's fluency in talking about his new CD and music.
Although I do not understand Polish, I felt that Blechacz was really confident and composed and seemed quite happy in talking about three composers, sonatas, etc..

The program compared some parts of the sonatas played by Blechacz and other pianists such as Pollini,Richter and Schiff.
I felt that I like Blechacz's performance best (of course!)

My Polish friend says that the critics evaluated highly Blechacz's recording of sonatas;
even higher than the CD of Chopin Preludes released last year.
They used good words only: fantastic articulation, brilliant nuances, beautiful sound, full of joy, poetry, meditation, etc.
They were looking forward to listening to the next recording soon.

They said Blechacz's sonatas are on par with or even better than his predecessors, but Blechacz's piano is so unique in his own style that they cannot compare his piano with other masters'.

The critics highly praised Blechacz for such an excellent CD.
Blechacz said that he would like to maintain good health so that he can work in good condition and give concerts to people,
and he wishes the new CD will give joy to listeners.

Blechacz also said that in Salzburg, he was able to attend Pollini's recital and had an opportunity to talk with him, talking about working together in the future.

(Pollini's recita took place on Aug.16, the following day of Blechacz's.
According to a Japanese magazine, after attending Pollini's recital, Blechacz said that he was prompted to feel like playing Chopin's sonata No.2.)

And the critics expressed their joy by saying "Chapeau bas", meaning that they need to take their hats off to show respect to Blechacz's CD.



Sep 28, 2008

Rafał Blechacz's notes on CD "sonatas-haydn, mozart, beethoven"

From the CD of Rafał Blechacz "sonatas-haydn, mozart, beethoven",  the notes written by Rafał Blechacz of his thoughts on these three composers. 
The original Polish notes were already made available by some Polish media reports. 

-----------
A few words about this programme
Rafał Blechcz


In coupling Haydn's late piano sonata in E flat major with Beethoven's second sonata, I wanted to focus the listener's attention on the connections between these two composers and the strong impact of Haydn's music on his younger colleague's early works. 
Haydn's style was for Beethoven both a model and point of reference from which to search for and develop his own, individual voice. 
In their keyboard compositions, both composers came to draw extensively on their experience in writing in other instrumental genres. 
Looking closely at the E flat major Sonata, its texture, treatment and voice leading through the various keyboard registers, I am aware of the presence of symphonic and string-quartet thinking. 
And similar processes can be also found when analyzing Haydn's other sonatas. 

I've always enjoyed imagining the timbre of various other instruments when I play certain passages in Classical sonatas. 
While working on Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, I've often attempted mentally to "orchestrate" the work, or part of it, whenever I had doubts as to articulation, pedalling or timbre. 
After performing this "instrumentation in the mind", those doubts about interpretation would disappear. 
I knew that certain octaves had to be played secco, other passages like a cello - with a full, warm sonority (like the middle section of the E flat major Sonata's Adagio) - yet another phrase would be an imitation of the clarinet, and some sounds in the lower voices clearly evoked a bassoon.
The third movement of the Haydn sonata is very orchestral in nature.
Listening to it, I can easily imagine the sound of a tutti, as well as of smaller groups of instruments (wind or string).

I associate fast runs, such as in the first movement of the E flat major Sonata, with typical string figurations where every individual semiquaver (16th-note) or even demisemiquaver (32nd-note) is important and must be audible. 
The loss of even one of these notes would upset the whole structure - like a string of pearls, which makes an enormous impression on us because each element, each pearl, is perfect in itself, noticeable individually, but also fashions a harmonious whole together with the others. 
Thinking about such phrases in terms of "pearly" runs is a means of avoiding a mechanical, purely technical, etude-like treatment of fast figuration.

There is, of course, a whole range of different moods to be found in this sonata - from one of triumph (conveyed by numerous sforzati and considerable dynamic contrasts) to the humour and wit in the finale and in the second theme of the first movement. 
Haydn's "London" Symphonies, written around the same time, share in this spirit, as does most of the other music he composed during his time in England.

The same qualities can be heard in Beethoven's A major Sonata, dedicated to Haydn and composed almost simultaneously with the latter's Sonata in E flat and Beethoven's brief period of study with Haydn. 
The beginning of the first movement, particularly bars 9-20, as well as bars 166-85 to me suggest a string quartet. 
When the opening motif is repeated forte (bar 20), there is no doubt in my mind that this is a full orchestral tutti. 
Typical pianistic elements are obviously also present in this work, and its emotional, expressive character foreshadows the mature, rebellious, heroic Beethoven (as in the middle, staccato section of the rondo and the recapitulation in the stormy first movement with its numerous harmonic changes). 



Mozart's Sonata in D major, K. 311, showcases his always original, indeed unique, pianistic style, with its distinct references to his operatic and symphonic music. 
The use of achingly beautiful vocal themes in the second movement is exceptionally moving and calming, and clearly shows that opera was Mozart's greatest love. 
I feel that the middle movement is often the "heart" of a work. 
It is the place where the composer, as well as the performer, takes the opportunity to reveal in sound everything lurking in the deepest reaches of his soul. 
He is free to articulate everything while still leaving it nameless. 

Does this mean that we are dealing here with Romantic works? 
I don't think so, yet it would be wrong to suppose that Classical composers felt a different kind of joy, sadness, hope or despair than the Romantics. 
The fundamental nature of emotion is always the same; only its expression changes. 
When playing works from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic or even impressionist repertoire, I often feel that these composers always comvey the same substance, feeling and emotions, even though the style and approach of each is unique. (Written by Rafał Blechacz)


We wish you Happy Nameday, Rafał Blechacz

We wish you Happy Nameday, Rafał Blechacz ♪


Receiving Platinum Disc for his DG debut recording "Preludia", Nov.2007


Rafał Blechacz celebrates his Nameday (imieniny) on Sept.29, the first day for the name of Rafał after his birthday, June 30.
(Rafał=Raphael is one of the Archangels, meaning "God has healed".)

Congratulatory messages from fans of Rafał Blechacz

Congratulations & Best Wishes on Rafał's Imieniny!
Look for to all his future successes and happy healthy life!! 
(Shizuka, the United States)


"All of the Best!" Congratulatory card with an animated picture and music!!
(Dana, Poland) ← Please click!



Your beautiful piano makes all the fans around the world happy. Thank you Rafał for that.
I sincerely hope that Rafał's concerts in New York will be a huge success!
(A devout fan from Japan)


I wish you, dear Rafał, a blessed and merry Name day
as well as further happiness and lots of inspiration
to continue playing such greatly enjoyable, deeply moving music.
I'd like to thank you sincerely for everything you give to us.
(Johanna, Germany)


Let me extend my heartfelt congratulations to Rafał, wishing for your continued health and success,
and appreciation for giving to all Rafał's music lovers the excellent piano music.
I wish I could offer a single flower to comfort you after your hard work...
(Akiko, Tokyo)




Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje, żyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech żyje, żyje nam,
Niech żyje nam!

(English)
A hundred years, a hundred years,
May he live for us.
A hundred years, a hundred years,
May he live for us.
Once again, once again, may he live, live for us,
May he live for us!




Happy Nameday Rafał
May good luck and happiness
wait upon you
May our wish for you success
make your dreams come true
Please remember
All Rafał music lovers are alway behind you
where'er you are
and forever
(On behalf of all the enthusiasts for Rafał's Preludia around the world)

Sep 27, 2008

Blechacz talks on new CD webcast Sept.28

On Sunday, Sept.28,Polskie Radio will have a program on Rafał Blechacz's new CD "sonatas-haydn, mozart, beethoven" where critics discuss the new recording.
The program includes a conversation with Rafał Blechacz connected via telephon.

Program date: 15:00--16:00 Sunday Sept.28 (Poland local time)
Program page is here.

Please click "sluchaj w internecie"(listen by internet) on the left side of the page (third from the top)
and the webcast page will open to start the program "dwoika" (program 2).


Sep 26, 2008

Blechacz Salzburg recital aired by BBC 3, Sept.30

Rafał Blechacz Recital at Salzburg Festival on Aug.15 will be on air by BBC 3 at 19:00 on Sept.30.
(Extracts only, following the concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by new Music Director Andris Nelsons earlier Sept.)

BBC Radio 3.

Blechacz's performance at Salzburg was enthusiastically accepted by the audience. The ovation continued for 15 minutes.

A week later, Blechacz played Saint-Saens piano concerto No.2 with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conduced by Andris Nelsons. Again, really moving concert.


Blechacz @autographic session
after Salzburg recital
(contributed by Dana, a visiting fan)

Release info of CD "sonatas" in NL. Release date is Sept. 25.

Site of Universal in US. You can here all the tracks of new CD partially. Release date was Sept. 23.

Sep 21, 2008

Blechacz's interview about CD "Chopin Preludes" (Japan)

This is the interview that Rafał Blechacz gave during Japan tour in June, 2007.

The interviewer was Mr. Koji Shimoda, a pianist, piano teacher and music critic.
He taught piano at Elsner Secondary Music School in Poland.
He has a comprehensive writing about Chopin’s works and has written many music reviews and program notes.

When I first encountered Rafał Blechacz's piano, Mr. Shimoda’s text in the CD of Blechacz in 2005 Chopin Competition was extremely helpful in understanding why Blechacz's piano was so deeply moving.
To give logically persuasive explanation about emotions and feelings provoked by music is very difficult.
Mr. Shimoda truly understands Blechacz and his music. Therefore, I feel his reviews/wrintings reliable.

Mr. Shimoda wrote the linernotes of Blechacz's CD "Preludes" Japanese version,
and this interview was used as its base.

The interview is long, so I divided it into two parts.
--------

No end to the beauty of his piano, always striking the heart of Chopin.
The rare advent of an European orthodox pianist--
His name is Rafał Blechacz.


"24 Preludes suit perfectly to my sensitivity", says Rafał Blechacz.

“I am very honored to be able to conclude the exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
The Contract remains in force for five years. Currently the plan to release three discs is underway”.


--Mr. Blechacz talks with shining eyes befitting 22-year-old youth but he is very quiet in his manner.
I interviewed him on June 13, during his Japan tour between late May and June, 2007.
It was just before the planned recording of his first CD Chopin Preludes under the label of Deutsche Grammophon.---


“The reason why I selected 24 Preludes for my first recording with DG is first of all, I have been well prepared.
I have been playing these works for some time;
I picked six out of 24 Preludes for the 2005 Chopin Competition in Warsaw;
I played the first 12 during my Japan tour in 2006 and remaining 12 during 2007 Japan tour.

I have spent sufficient time to study these pieces deeply and played them in concerts repeatedly.

More importantly, these Preludes fit well with my sensitivity;
the 24 pieces are well composed to the extent that I can demonstrate my potentiality to full
from both pianistic and artistic aspects.

If I add one more thing, Deutsche Grammophon dose not have recent recording of Chopin’s 24 Preludes”.



In 2005 Chopin competition, it was recommended that contestants use Ekier Edition.
My observation was, however, Mr. Blechacz, you basically used Paderewski Edition for the performance.
What is your view of selecting the edition for your recording of 24 Preludes?

“Usually, I use Paderewski for all the works; it is not limited to “24 Preludes”.
It is the edition I have been using since I was young;
I am familiar to this and it is the edition that I think is reasonably reliable.

However, when I play No.9 E Major, based on my study of Autographs Edition, it is effectively the same as Ekier (National Edition).

On the other hand, concerning No 8. F Sharp Minor for example,
although there are several differences between Autographs and Paderewski Editions,
I have been playing based on Paderewski, because there is no harmonic inconvenience with Paderewski,
some of which became Urtext.


Next question is sound characteristics of pianists.
I feel that the sound by Russian pianists is crisp and brilliant
while traditional sound produced by Polish pianists is more deep and calm-headed.

My impression about your piano sound, Mr. Blechacz, is a hybrid of merits of both; yours is excellent;
it is as if the body of profound sound wears gorgeous dress.
But when it comes to reproducing such sounds on the recorded CD, I suppose it entails difficulties. Any concern?


“The recording will take place at Hamburg Studio in Hamburg, Germany.
The studio has a reputation as a quality studio often used for recordings.
Under the current plan, I am going to work with a team with good experience,
including the recording engineer who recently worked for Zimmerman for recording Brahms piano concerto.
So, I am not worried.


from Japan Tour pamphlet


People say that you try not to listen to others’ performances too much.
But I suppose you listened to some of the recordings of Chopin’s Preludes in order to complete your recording.

“Of course I have Preludes by Argerich and I have heard Sokolov’s recording.
I also listened to Arrau, Rubinstein, Cherkassky, and…ah, Pogorelich.
However I care more about how I should interpret and express the works
after coming in touch with such interpretations. It is a matter of course.”

What ideal image are you going to embrace for recording the works?
“Each of Preludes is small and short.
First of all, I grasp them as one large work.
Based on that, I need to disentangle the whole unit into each Prelude in order to express details.
Difficult part is how to strike a balance between the details and overall dramatism.
Therefore, for recording, I would like to take long duration to play several Preludes consecutively.
The idea is to play them in an atmosphere similar to the real performance on the stage so that I can make each of the works compelling.”

Looking back, you have been taking unique approach in playing Preludes for recitals in Japan.
As you said before, you played Preludes 7 to 12 in Chopin Competition, 1 to 12 for recitals during 2006 Japan tour and the remaining 13 to 24 in the current Japan tour.

“I give due consideration to the balance as a recital.
For 2006 Japan tour, for example, I decided to play Polonaise-Fantaisie and Chopin piano sonata No.3 first.
If I play all the 24 Preludes in addition to them, the program could be too heavy.
Therefore, I picked the first 12 Preludes.
Furthermore, as I kept the rest of Preludes until this year’s Japan tour, I was able to mature them and show better version of my performance to the Japanese audience.


Deutsche Grammohpon already has recordings by Argerich and Pollini,
master pianists and your predecessors as a victor of Chopin competition.
Don’t you have sense of awe in joining such a list?

“Obviously, I am enthusiastic about trying to attain the possible highest level with my first recording from DG.
because for me it will be the debut recording.

But I have no intention to make listeners surprised or shocked with the CD.
What I would like to do is to represent with the instrument what I have read from the score,
putting my highest respect to Chopin into it.
First Chopin is out here. Then comes I. That’s how it is supposed to be.”

Your remark has reminded me of the attitude of Krystian Zimerman toward interpretations:
studying scores deeply; cautiously expanding repertoire, etc…
Mr. Blechacz, you spent five days with Zimerman in Switzerland this February. How did it affect you?

“Immediately after the Chopin Competition, Krystian helped me a lot
by making efforts to put my concert activities on the right track
and giving me precious advice about repertoire.

When I stayed with him in Switzerland, I played Haydn, Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin’s Preludes before him.
I found that all of his interpretations of music are what he has derived from composers’ texts,
although some of them look quite bold.

I am grateful that he didn’t deny and respected how I feel the music.
Based on my basic interpretation, he offered me a lot of suggestions”.

I've been informed that you concluded a five-year exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
What is next on the plan after recording Chopin Preludes?

“The current plan includes three recordings.
First is the recording of Chopin’s 24 Preludes and others.
Second is solo album of recording other composers than Chopin.
And the third will be Chopin’s two piano concertos, in commemoration of 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010”.

Which composers are you thinking for the second CD?
“ I have not yet finalized it but I am thinking about classical music such as Beethoven and Haydn.
I am fascinated by the simple beauty of, for example, Haydn.
Generally, works of classical composers are very close to my sensitivity.
If I have the opportunity to record works of Bach, it will be his Suites”.


Blechacz during interview with Shimoda


What about Rachmaninoff?
“I am really interested in that!!
There are many terrific piano works by Rachnaninoff. Playing them should expand my pinanistic potentiality.

I deeply love Chopin. No doubt about that.
But I have studied the extensive repertoire and I will continue it.
In this sense, I will not be labeled as so-called ‘Chopin player’.”

During the Japan tour of this year, you played Chopin piano concerto No.1
with Russian National Orchestra conducted by Pletnev and the Chopin concerto was arranged by Pletnev.
How did you feel when playing the adapted version? I think for recording you will play with the orthodox edition.

“The arrangement done by Maestro Pletnev made a bold step into some piano parts,
e.g. in the third movement, some piano parts were replaced by woodwind instruments.

In the first movement, he instructed the orchestra to raise some strings’ parts an octave,
making the sound getting closer to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

The role of orchestra in Chopin piano concerto is accompaniment in most parts,
so I think the Maestro arranged to let his orchestra play more important role.
For me, it was truly valuable experience to perform that unprecedented version of Chopin
with such a great maestro and wonderful orchestra.
Actually, I conveyed my message through my performance to the orchestra and I was rightly responded;
it is rare to have this experience”.




Sep 20, 2008

Nikkei selected Blechacz's new CD

Nikkei Newspaper (economic/financial news daily in Japan) introduced “rafał blechacz sonatas—haydn, mozart, beethoven”
in its disc review column of the evening edition as of Sept. 19, 2008,
alongside with such CDs as “Songs for Tibet—The Art of Peace”
a compilation by Sting, Alanis Morissette, John Mayer and other renowned singers,
“Blacl Narcissus (Black narcissus)” by Renee Rosness (Canadian Jazz singer), and
“Hommage a Grappelli” by Benjamin Schmid (Jazz in this case).

After a brief introduction of Rafał Blechacz, the columnist says that Blechacz proves his authenticity by playing Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart in the new CD
which was released in Japan in line with his debut in Salzburg Festival of this summer.


Poster of recital in Osaka, Japan in Feb. 2009
(The yellow letters on the top means Rafał Blechacz in Japanese.
The following white ones are Piano Recital.)



Nikkei is Japan’s Wall Street Journal or Financial Times;
circulation is 3.1 million copies compared to NY Times 1.1 million and readership is business persons and professionals.

The paper sets aside only a limited space for articles about culture
and cultural stories are written in a condensed manner.
I believe therefore, the fact that Nikkei selected Blehcacz’s new CD in its narrow space is quite significant.


Site of Universal Japan. Demo listening of the new CD is available. (More tracks than DG!!)


Empik.com site for Blechacz new CD. (Polish)

Sep 18, 2008

Blechacz Japan Tour Feb. 2009

This is the leaflet of Rafał Blechacz Japan Tour in Feb. 2009.

Link to order tickets from outside of Japan (Recitals)
Link to order tickets from outside of Japan (Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4)



Feb.6 19:00 @Acros Fukuoka (Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Fukuoka-city)
Beethoven piano concerto No. 4
with Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marek Janowski.
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra page.

Venue info
1F/1,208seats 2F/384seats 3F/275seats
reverberation time: occupied 2.0sec.
Please click the blue letters link in the left-bottom (シンフォニーホールのご紹介) to see the video of the hall.

In the video, maestro Kenichiro Kobayashi, music director of Kyusyu Symphony Orchestra praises the acoustics of the Hall, comparing it to the oasis for people of Fukuoka.

Fukuoka is located in Kyusyu Island about 1200 km south-west from Tokyo; 90 min. by flight
or 6.5 hours by Shinkansen (bullet train).

The population is 1.5 million, not too big. Fukuoka is a socio-economic/cultural center of Kyusyu district.
Quite a few artists (actors, J-pop singers, etc..) come from this city.

The city is beautifully developed and the citizens are sophisticated. People’s taste is quite similar to that of Tokyo.
When a new product/service is introduced from a foreign country, a market research is conducted first in Fukuoka for testing, before it is released in Tokyo.

Blechacz had a recital here in 2006,
after Matsuyama (the town of oranges) and before Hamamatsu.


Feb.9 19:00 @Tokyo Suntory Hall
Beethoven piano concerto No. 4
with Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marek Janowski.

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra page


venue info
2006 seats arranged in a terraced design,
Believed to be the best concert hall in Japan.

Blechacz played for the Chopin competition Gala concert here in early 2006.



Feb.12 19:00 @Tokyo Komae city ECORMA Hall
Recital

venue info
728 seats
A new hall for Blechacz.


Feb.14 18:00 @Tokyo Opera City Hall
Recital
Sold out as of Jan. 17

venue info
Ground floor: 974
1st balcony: 356 (26 in front of pipe organ)
2nd balcony: 302
Reverberation time, occupied: 1.95sec

Blechacz held recitals here many times.



Feb. 18 19:00 @Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Hall (Tokyo Cultural Center Hall)
Recital
Built in 1961 so older compared to Suntory/Opera City/Yokohama Minato-Mirai Halls.
Has been a center of concerts and theatrical performances.

A new venue for Blechacz.

venue info
2303 seats, 5-stories.


Feb. 19 19:00 @Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall
Recital

venue info
1st floor 1,044 seats
2nd floor 682 (with 126 chorus seats)
3rd floor 294
Reverberation Time: occupied 2.1 sec.

Another venue that Blechacz is familiar with.


Feb.22 14:00 @Osaka The Symphony Hall
Recital

venue info
1704 seats
reverberation time: occupied 2.0 sec.

Blechacz played here a couple of times.


Program:Recital
Mozart: Piano Sonata No.16 in B-flat major K.570
Beethoven: Piano Sonata in A-major Op.2-2
Chopin: Chopin: 4 mazurek Op.17
Chopin: Polonaise No.6 in A-flat major, Op.53 "Heroic"
Szymanowski: Variations in B-flat Minor for piano op.3


Ticket info is here (Japanese)(日本語).


Program:Concerto
with Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marek Janowski.

Schubert: Symphony No.8 b-moll D.759 "Unfinshed"
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 G-dur Op.58 (Piano:Rafal Blechacz)
Beethoven: Symphony No.5 c-moll Op.67

Ticket info is here (Japanese)(日本語).
---------
I think Beethoven concerto No.4 fits extremely well with Rafał Blechacz, better than No.3 or .5
in that the music is about a dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra.
I have an impression that Blechacz has the exceptional ability to assimilate into orchestral music
(or he naturally lets the orchestra harmonize with the piano);
I felt so when listening to his Saint-Saens No.2 and two Chopin concertos.

As far as I know, it will be the first occasion for Blechacz to play this great concerto in a real concert.

For solo recitals,
He played Beethoven sonata No.2 and Szymanowski Variations op3 at the 2003 Hamamatsu Piano competition,
but number of people who attented the competition was limited compared to the current fans base.

Szymanowski, his compatriot composer, is quite important for Rafał Blechacz.
It is reported that he regrets he could not include it in the Salzburg program.

It will be excellent opportunitiy for Blechacz music lovers in Japan to listen to his powerful and moving performance firsthand.

I had the luck to hear his Szymanowski variations several times at recitals held in different countries.
It is the music that always pierces to the heart.

And I remember that every time he played it, all the people in the audience, including those who do not know well about Blechacz and/or Szymanowski, were captivated and mesmerized with the music.

Sep 16, 2008

Blechacz let spontaneous applause in San Carlo

Today's story is a little bit old.
In Feb. this year, Rafał Blechacz toured in Italy.

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

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

Program:
Mozart piano sonata k311
Debussy Estampes
Szymanowski Variations op3
Chopin Preludes op28
------------
The following is a review written by Umberto Garberini (1970-), an Italian pianist, piano teacher and music critic.
I have kept this review at hand; because there is one part that I love.

The original article is here. (Italian)
You can see an unsusual face of Rafał Blechacz.
(I think it is the moment he finished the final Variation of Szymanowski.)


Polish pianist played Mozart and Chopin in intensive recital
--Applause for Blechacz in San Carlo


At Naples. A 23-year-old Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz (see photo), the winner of the 2005 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, performed at San Carlo Theatre in its concert season.

The intensive recital culminated in the second half with Preludes op.28 by Chopin;
Blechacz showed exceptionally profound, lucid and inspiring interpretation.

The young interpreter has restored the value of the unit of works; the way he played was not playing or improvising "on rough preparation (Schumann)".
He played in the way that each Prelude exemplifies the poetic world of the composer by expressing sketches, pearls, unfinished elements, hints of melody, shots of anger, the pure vision and some feeling that are incomprehensible and irrational.

Chopin was physically weak, died young at 39; it seems that Chopin vindicated himself with small forms of his pianism of genius, of mystery.
Therefore, perhaps, among other things, the Preludes are his most significant and symbolic music.

Blechacz has proved that by showing the depth of individual songs and making them shine in a perfectly made mosaic, with all the cards in the right place.

There were moments that he showed a rare beauty by singing smoothly;
he was as if talking to the audience in one of the most famous Preludes "Raindrop",
which attracted spontaneous applause of the audience during the performance
and Blechacz responded with a smile.


Teatro di San Carlo

In the first half, he played Mozart sonata D major K.311, Debussy "Estampes" and Variations op.3 of Szymanowski.
Like Chopin, Szymanowski is one of the most representative Polish musicians.
He passed away in 1937 and not well known; he attempted a personal synthesis between tradition and modernity.
His works including the op.3 are full of pathos, reminiscent of Chopin.
Blechacz with congenial pianism effectively expressed the characteristics.

He suggested impressionism in Debussy "Estampes", trying to express a wide variety of colors, with its homage orient and Andalusian element but less effective.
Mozart was full of classical vigor, very Germanic.
Applause and an encore with a Chopin's Mazurka. (by Rmberto Garberini)

-----------
↑The review was written by an Italian pianist.
Another review on his recital in Monfalcone, Italy on Feb.6.

This is a review of Blechacz's recital in San Francisco on May 11.
The program is the same as Italy.
(He held a total of five recitals in North America in late April and early May.
San Francisco was the final one of his North America debut recitals).
The reviewer is Prof. Anatole Leikin of UC Santa Cruz;
he is a well-experienced pianist and has recorded Chopin and Scriabin; has writings about music.
-------------
Chopin Preludium op 28-15 "Raindrop" played by Rafał Blechacz
I put this song dedicated to Ms.S in Texas of the US,
who loves it especially when played by Rafał Blechacz. 

Sep 15, 2008

Release dates of Blechacz new CD varied

I placed an order of the International version of Rafał Blechacz's new CD:"rafal blechacz sonatas--haydon, mozart, beethoven" via on-line (via Amazon.jp in may case. import from U.S.). It will be available on Sept. 23.

The release date differs among markets.
For example, the Netherlands --Sept.26
Switzerland--Oct.10.
U.K.--Oct.13.
Another site of U.K.

Talking about U.K., Rafał Blechacz will play Chopin Concerto No.1 with London Philharmonia Orchestra on Nov.11, 2008.
The conductor is Charles Dutoit, a household name for Japanese because Dutoit used be a music director of NHK Sympony Orchestra between 1998 and 2003. Dutoit contributed greatly to make NSO internationalized.

London Phil's program page is here

For Blechacz, performing with the great orchestra of London will be another big step forward.
Rafał made a debut recital in London Wigmore Hall in April, 2007.
It was a lunch time concert and faborably accepted by the audience and media of U.K.
The evening recital is scheduled in 08/09 season at the Wigmore.

You can here Blechacz's lunch time recital at Wigmore in April, 2007 here.
Please click 20:10.



Program:
Debussy Estampes
F. List Concert Studies
Chopin Mazurka op50, Polonaise op61

Blechacz interviewd by Czech media

On June 4, 2008, Rafał Blechacz played for a recital at Rudolfinum in Prague, Czeck Republic.
On that occasion, a local media Harmonie interviewed him.

The original language of this article is Czech, which was machine-translated and I picked the parts that are clear only.

Just in case there could be a visitor who understands Czech, this is the original Czech site.
The site includes some ever dear pictures.


A small stature blessed with a huge talent

(Introduction of Blechacz including victory in Warsaw in 2005, contract with Deutche Grammophon;
expected to play for next year's "Spring of Prague".
Looks like preferring Socrates and Poato to blares of flashlights.)

Q What brought you to music? Your parents?
A Neither of my parents is a musician but since there was a piano at home, I was attracted to music naturally.

Q When did you decide to be a professional pianist?
A It was relatively late at the age of eight that I started to join the piano course. I was blessed with some good teachers, which prompted me to engage in piano seriously. I also played the organ.
One day, my father discsovered that I have the absolute hearing. I think around that time I began thinking of becoming a professioanl.

Q Are you a kind of person who likes piano competitions?
A I entered some competitions before the 2005 Chopin competition. (citing Arthur Rubinstein, Hamamatsu and Morocco.)
But I am not the kind of a person.

Q How did you endure the pressure during the competition?
A My teacher always told me to enjoy playing music.
If you really enjoy it, you are the winner. I agree to that.

Q How was the atmosphere surrounding you during the competition? Did you feel that there were many rivals?
A Of course I had many rivals in the competition.
But I had the strategy: I rented an apartment so that I do not see people who stayed at hotels;
I distanced myself from the media;
I did not listen to the radio, did not watch TV, so that I won't be affected by various speculations;
I drove back to my home between the rounds to take rest.

Q How did you feel when your name was called?
A The joy lasted for only a moment. Immediately, a lot of things that I was supposed to do innundated me; interviews, meeting with important people, news conferences, another meetings and so on. It was about three weeks later that I belatedly felt joy of the victory.




Q You are reported to love philosophy. Which direction or philosopher are you inclined to?
A Initially, I started with Plato and Socrates; recently, I have read Husserl's phenomenology and texts of Roman lngarden and theological aspects.
I already graduated from secondary school so I get private consultation.

Q Which aspect of Chopin do you like better: romantic or classical?
A Chopin admired Bach and Mozart for their classical transparency; I feel closeness to the classical music.

Q Which Chopin music is left to study?
A I managed to cover importand works of solo and concerto in preparation for the competition.
But I have some Mazurkas left; I would like to record Mazurkas in the future.

---------
There is a report that Rafał studies philosophy at Nicolaus Copernicus University (UMK) in Torun.

Sep 14, 2008

French pianist's view of Blechacz's Preludes

This is the review of "Chopin Preludes", the first CD Rafał Blechacz released from Deutsche Grammophon a year ago.

The review was written by Mr. Sebastien Dupuis in Feb. 2008. When I found this review, I circulated it to Japanese Blechacz fans as my routine but I did not post this on this site, feeling that his description is too naive.

But we have only a few weeks to go before the new CD: "sonatas--haydn, mozart, beethoven" is released.
(And let me say that you will inevitably be absorbed deeply in the beauty of Rafał's classicals.)

Furthermore, Dana, my Polish friend sent me the same article days ago, saying it's beautiful.
I was very pleased to know that Dana found and read the same article of Rafał in her country that is far from mine.

According to Dana, Sebastien Dupuis has ended and received the title of Master of piano in Royal Conservatory in Brussels (Belgium)-2007.
Now, he works as a teacher of piano in Bordeaux in France and sometimes gives recitals.

I hope that the article will remind you of the beauty of Preludes.

The original text is here (French).




Sometimes miracle happens in the musical world;

when you think that a young man of 22 years old suddenly finds himself thrown in a pantheon of discography
alongside with Zimerman, Argerich and Pollini.
But I already regret having written the name of Zimerman twice in this article talking about Rafał Blechacz,
because this pianist deserves more than a comparison.
We need to recognize his unique artistic identity, even if his approach is closer to that pianist.

Rafał Blechacz is a gift, total renewal of the musical world where the sound has been restored by his subtle and powerful personality.
He is powerful but not like those young virtuosos who ravage everything by their immense talent;
he is powerful like a large river, that is forceful and slow and flows peacefully along the path traced on the land;
nothing makes it stop; and it gradually reaches the ocean for pouring to the infinite extent.

With his unique personality, his new vision of works by Chopin, and his sense of touch,
Rafał Blechacz was made a new messiah of pianists.
His approach to the piano proves once again that there is always a new door to a new universe not yet explored.
The Blechacz’s universe is characterized by the silence, singing right hand, restraint, generosity of sound, prowess of pedaling and perfect articulation.
In 24 Preludes, which give us the impression of being too well known so far,
the pianist has restored the Chopin music that he has deeply loved and he could not bear to see mediocre.
Rafał Blechacz is a liberator of the world of music; he has removed the fear of forgetting Chopin.
I would say that he brought to us something compelling that this is how Chopin should be played and that it has always been so.

Blechacz has chosen two nocturnes op62 to close his first disc.
Both are masterpieces that suggest the direction of the young pianist
and leave us dreaming until the release of the next CD we are anxiously waiting for.
What a wonder that this fabulous pianist who leads us to discover is still at the very beginning of his long road to artistic maturity.

Unfortunately, words are not enough to transcribe the emotions on this disc.
I strongly recommend that all the people around the world are aware of and listen to his music. (by Sebastien Dupuis)


Sep 12, 2008

Blechacz at autographic session in Salzburg/ Interview in Poland

I had Dana, a Polish fan of Rafał Blechacz e-mailing me recently.
She attended Blechacz recital at Salzburg on Aug.15 and shared with me the photos she took after the recital.

I am very pleased to see smiling Rafał Blechacz after he performed in that bold, exciting and masculine manner.

Thank you Dana, and let me share it with other Blechacz fans.




Rafał Blechacz after Salzburg recital




Mozarteum photographed by Dana



Another photo of Mozarteum contributed by a Japanese
who visited there in August (not for Rafal's recital)

---------
Dana attended Rafał's concerts at Amsterdam Concertgebouw on Oct.7, 2007,
and at Poznan on Nov.10, 2007 soon after Preludes, his first CD from Deutsche Grammophon won the platinum disc in Poland.

On the following day, she joined a commemorative event held at Empik in Poznan, a major music shop where Rafał Blechacz met the fans.

Dana told him that she went to the recital at Concertgebouw in the previous month,

and Rafał's answer was;
(I will quote the relevant part of Dana's mail)
--------------
"There was super, wasn't it? " super for me, for him, for all people who were in Concertgebouw in that evening, all were glad to hear beautiful musik together with him.
Maybe this sentence is difficilt to understend ,maybe it is only in Polish.
--------------

I suppose Dana says that Rafał described how the audience was inspired and united with the pianist by the beauty of the music.

I listened the recital at Concertgebouw via webradio. I felt unusual excitement and energy from the performance.
Actually, I prefer Preludes op28 played in Concertgegouw to the recorded CD.

The following is the video of the event at Empik.




(outlines of Blechacz's remarks in the video)
The preparations were perfect.
The photo session was carried out in Berlin a few months before the recording (of CD "Preludes").
It took a full one day. Photos were taken with a variety of pose and style; best ones were selected for promotional campaigns and the CD jacket.

Talking about the recording (of Preludes), it took place at the studio in Hamburg in July, 2007.
I spent approximately one week for the recording.
For me, that was sufficient; I was able to do experiment to full extent and select best versions from among pieces recorded during the period.

I spent the first two days to grasp and sense the instrument; the piano that I chose a few months before the recording.
What happened first was, of course, to set the microphones; then I had a coordinating meeting with the music director.
After that, hours between 13:00 and 20:00 were spent for the recording.

What was most important for me was to create one integrated unit, cycle of music from the 24 works of op-28.
To this end, I decided to perform a long session to feel an atmosphere similar to the actual concert.
First, I recorded the first 12 Preludes of op28, then another 12 pieces in the second half followed.

I repeated this series four or five times.
Then, the best ones were selected for the CD: typically, second from the last recorded one was picked.
Sometimes, I returned back to a Prelude already recorded and re-performed for that perticular piece trying to make it better.

Roughly speaking, I completed recording of Preludes op28 on the first day and recorded the remaining two Preludes (posthumous and op45) and Nocturnes during the second day.

They put together the master CDs very quickly, which I received early Aug.
I listened to the recordings day and night and selected the best version.
I had the final version sent to me in late Aug.
After that, we got started promotional activities.

(Acknowledgments: I put together this Englishe outline based on the translated Japanese that was prepared by Kuma, a Japanese woman living in Poland. First, her Polish husband watched the video and translated it into English; then she translated from English to Japanese and sent it to me in spring this year. Let me thank Kuma and her husband.
Now I translated the Japanese version back into English. Therefore, this is not a precise translation. But I beleive it conveys basic idea of Blechacz's remarks)

----------
Dana also sent to me the article "Chopin is always in my heart."

I suppose it describes who Rafał Blechacz is.
Although written in Polish, I believe that the readers will enjoy beautiful photos of Rafał , as a professional who always quests for the highest.
here.

Sep 9, 2008

Blechacz dreams paragliding over Grand Canyon

Today, I would like to post two interesting topics that Johanna, an earnest fan of Rafał Blechacz in Germany sent to me.
(Thanks! Johanna.)

First, you have a Youtube video of the German TV show produced by a German music magazine "crescendo".
Rafał Blechacz appears in the middle of the video.

The show is produced in German, so Johanna prepared the outline in English.

(Outline)
At the beginning, the presenter imitates Lang Lang's and Helene Grimaud's habits of playing the piano
and then an interview with Helene Grimaud about Beethoven follows.

When talking about Rafał Blechacz, he regrets that there are so many star-pianists who have a short career and then disappear into nowhere.

However, since his visit to a concert of Rafal Blechacz, he's under the impression that Rafał is different:
the presenter thinks that Rafał Blechacz isn't perfect yet, but he will have a long-living career
and we really can look forward to further CDs in some years.

Then the presenter asks Rafal Blechacz why he likes playing Chopin
(the Rafał's answer is in English)

and he asks him to play a piece of music at a piano drawn onto paper (that's the most interesting part!!!),

because he has told Blechacz that he met Krystian Zimerman but doesn't share his obsession to find the perfect piano!

Rafał Blechacz takes the task very seriously, so watch the video - it's worth it!

Now, please watch the video.
----------

I hope that all of you enjoy the video!
Actually, the same video was discovered by a fan (in Poland maybe) and sent to one of Blechacz's fans in Japan last year.
But because it is German, we could not understand what the presenter was talking about and why Rafal was working on the paper-made piano.

A year later, the mistery was solved finally.


----------

Johanna's second contribution is the interview that Rafał Blechacz gave to the German Magazine called KlassikAkzente: a promo magazine published by Universal, DECCA, Deutsche Grammophon and ECM at the beginning of the year 2008.

On line version of the Magazine is here. (Rafal's article is page 19)
(←I found this link is no longer active, as of June 16, 2009.)

Johanna was kind enough to translate the article into English. (Thaaaanks!)


KlassikAkzente: Music is a holy art, right?
Rafał Blechacz: I absolutely agree with that.
I have always been convinced that music forms a bridge between heaven and earth.

KA: If you could choose it, in which age would you have liked to live?
RB: I was born 300 years after Johann Sebastian Bach and let's leave it at that occasion.

KA: Which composer of the past would you ask to compose a piece of music for you?
RB: Johann Sebastian Bach, without doubt.

KA: Which non-musical adventure would you like to let yourself in for?
RB: Flying over the Grand Canyon with a paraglider some time.
Maybe a bit too crazy?

KA: What would your ideal audience be like?
RB: One that doesn't cough, that switches off its mobile phones,
that doesn't unwrap sweets and that doesn't fall asleep during the concert.
That is simply listening. But I know that this is impossible.

KA: Which painter of the past or present would you have liked to sit for?
RB: Recently, I have visited the Van-Gogh-Museum in Amsterdam after my recital
and I was deeply impressed by many of his pictures that I had never seen before.
To sit for him, I could imagine quite well provided he doesn't demand that I cut off my ear for it.

KA: Your musical creed?
RB: FLF! That means: freedom, love and friendship.

KA: Which was your most exciting musical encounter?
RB: I have had the possibility and the privilege to work with Krystian Zimerman for a week.
We worked out some pieces of music and experimented a bit.
That was indeed an unusual experience for me.

KA: Which encounter would you like to arrange in your imagination?
RB: I would count myself lucky if I could play for Pope Benedikt XVI some time.

KA: In your opinion, which composer or which work is over- or underestimated nowadays?
RB: In my opinion, mostly underestimated are the Polish composer Roman Maciejewski and his requiem
which is one of the most exciting pieces of music I have been allowed to hear until now.

KA: Which of the four temperaments sanguineous, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic mostly corresponds to your character?
RB: I think, I am as well melancholic as phlegmatic in accordance with the classification of Hippocrate,
but it is difficult for me to say which one is dominant.
Today, I am probably more phlegmatic, because actually, I am too lazy to answer so many questions.

KA: Could you be met in a sports stadium?
RB: I am only a spectator and that's why you can only meet me at a sports event when I am watching an interesting broadcast of sports on TV.

KA: Which book is lying next to your tuning fork and which one on your bedside table?
RB: Professionally, all biographies of composers, so that I can understand their works better.
To enjoy myself, I have recently read some important books of Polish philosophers of the 20th century, for example Tatarkiewicz and Kotarbinski.

KA: Which dish would never be found on your table?
RB: I try to avoid indigestive and fatty dishes.
I think something which I have never tried and certainly will never try is knuckle of pork. I am sorry!

KA: Which piece of music makes you sweat?
RB: One that must be played in the middle of summer in a concert hall with a failing air conditioning system.
But seriously, it doesn't matter which piece of music is played, but how it is played.
A well played 2nd Piano Concerto by Rachmaninoff makes me cry time and time again.

KA: Which statement about music do you never want to hear again?
RB: Rafal, cool! ... This was the best performance I have ever heard in my entire life!

KA: Which fairy-tale figure would you identify with?
RB: With the Little Prince?

KA: The only way to get rid of a temptation is to give way to it, said Oscar Wilde. What do you say?
RB: I admire the aphorisms of Oscar Wilde and I agree with him that this is the easiest way to overcome a temptation.
In Poland, we say for example forbidden fruits taste better.
But I think that life is more interesting and the person more creative and imaginative when certain temptations and forbidden areas are kept untouched.

-----------------

I think this is probably one of the most fascinating (and funny!) interviews that I have ever read given by Rafał Blechacz.
What a matured and sophisticated person he is! I cannot believe that he is just 23 years old (22 when the interview was given.)

Sep 7, 2008

German media introduces Blechacz as ECHO awardee

German classical music magazine Crescendo in its issue as of Aug.18, introduces Rafał Blehcacz as the winner of ECHO Klassik--Instrumentalist of the year: Piano.

Crescendo site is here (German).

<Machine-translated English of the site (Hopefully, you can get the idea).


The ECHO Klassik prizes were announced in June, 2008.
The Award giving ceremony will be held at Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig on Oct.19 and broadcast by German TV ZDF at 10:00 pm.
It is reported that Blechacz will appear in the program.


Sep 4, 2008

Blechacz talks about his new CD (Video)

Rafał Blechacz talks about his new CD "rafal blechacz sonatas--haydn mozart beethoven" in English!

Rafal Blechacz- EPK




The source of the video is here. (Deutsche Grammophon site)

Demo listening is available for the three sonatas.

Detailed version of the interview. (6min.)


Personal note: He is an innate piano man.
He looks extremely happy when playing the piano and talking about piano music.
By being so, he makes you happy, indeed.

Sep 3, 2008

Blechacz's new CD was launched in Japan

Rafał Blechacz's new CD "rafal blechacz sonatas--haydn mozart beethoven" was launched today (Sept.3) in Japan.

After listening to the sonatas, it came home to me that this is how the instrument called piano should be played.

At the same time, the performance is a vivid reminder of orchestra music because of versatile colors he expresses.
I felt so especially for Beethoven, because I have an affinity for Beethoven's orchestral music. I used to play for the university and citizens' orchestras before where I played Beethoven symphony No.3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 and some overtures.
For me Beethoven is a kind of music that gives me energy and courage when I feel down. I felt Blechacz's fourth movement (Rondo) is too "Grazioso"(graceful). It could be more daring and powerful. (sorry! it's my personal taste.)

(In his linernotes, Blechacz talks about the influence of composers's experience of chamber, symphonic and opera music on their piano music.)

Overall, his sonatas are full of confidence; it has no unnecessary frills; pedalling is minimal; still his piano gives profound sound; every note has its soul.

I have heard these three pieces several times; Haydn played at Amsterdam Concertgebouw on Oct.7, 2007 (via webradio), Beethoven (via webradio) and I heard Mozart three or four times attending his recitals in US and Europe. But I was impressed anew by the recorded pieces; what a robust structure! How exquisitely expressed each note is! Breathtaking reflection of sound and noble spirit of the player.

In the studio recording environment, I suppose he had different insight of how to play. Without presense of the audience, he may have had closer interchanges with the composers.


Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Blechacz's playing Saint-Saëns concerto No.2. It was quite interesting. With his rhythmical sense, I wish Blechacz will play Gershwin in the future.

His performance at Salzburg was also "interesting". Bold and with wider dynamic range than usual.

And these sonatas...
How resourceful a pianist he is..!!

"Versatility", "internal instrumentation" and "excellent sound architect" are the words coming up to mind now to describe him. I should find better words...


-----
I wrote my thought on the CD without reading any review or comment except for the notes written by Blechacz himself. The CD released in Japan contained the linernotes written by Bryce Morrison and Kazuhiko Utasaki, a Japanese critic. I have not read them through yet. Overall, thier comments are mainly about the pieces, not about Blechacz.

(Blechacz's note was not included in the Japanese version.
If it is not included in the international version, I will prepare an English translation of the note some time later, probably months after the CD has been released in Poland and all the other markets.)
------------
Overstock.com offers better price for the international version to be released on Sept.23.
13.76$ as of Sept.4, but the price and the release date are subject to change, according to the site.

HFM.pl, a Polish site, introduces a summary info of the new CD. Machine-translated English (understandable).
--------------

This is the message to the person who emailed me recently to share the Verbier video.
The audio-visual quality is very impressive!
Let me appreciate you here, 'cause I am not for sure if my reply mail reached you.
Thank you very much and please keep in touch!