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Jul 25, 2009

Sincere, straight from heart - Blechacz and Chopin

Rafał Blechacz gave interview to RMF Classic, talking of his recording of the new CD in Amsterdam early July.

RMF Classic site (Polish)

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Rafał Blechacz
I stand on the naturalness in life and music.
I recorded these concertos so that they were sincere, flowing straight from my heart ...


Another hard working summer by the outstanding Polish pianist. Rafał Blechacz has just recorded in Amsterdam the third album for Deutsche Grammophon, for which there will be concertos of Chopin. About the backstage of recording session, Chopin and concert plans, Magda Miśka discussed with the artist.


-In early July you played at Amsterdam Concertgebouw, one of the world's most famous concert halls. Are performances in such places particularly important to you?

Of course, they are important. I was lucky, because the concert was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon. I played there for the fourth time, and for the second time with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, which was great experience for me. Every time I feel happy when appearing for the local audience.


-Are they straightforward audiece or rather reserved in expressing explicit emotions?

The audience is very enthusiastic, but at the same time very sophisticated and well versed. The repertoire presented in this hall is very wide, the great artists have played there. I am happy that I was again rewarded by such an audience.


-They rewarded you with standing ovations.

The audience remembered me from the previous year prior to this concert, when I performed Piano Concerto in G minor by Camille Saint-Saëns. They also received Chopin very well. The standing ovation occurred after the first part, namely the piano Concerto in F minor. I felt great joy and fun observing the orchestra musicians when they were delivering the play of our folk song fragments. For them it was a great experience.


-The hall is famous for its excellent acoustics. Did you confirm this?

Yes. Acoustics is also great during rehearsals, when the pieces are recorded without the audience, and when people are seated and the sound was delivered to them.


-Did you feel the spirit of this place? Masters played there.

Such an atmosphere is always felt in halls where history stands. Its charm per se tunes my feeling and helps me playing or finding  beautiful interpretations. Therefore, it is important to record in such places.


-You remained in Amsterdam after the concert to record your latest album in Concertgebouw. This is the next album, which you worked in the summer. Is this the case?

A bit, yes. I have a summer break from the concerts, because the artistic season usually ends in mid-June. The orchestra was also during this time free, so it was possible to organize a recording session in the first week of July. I like summer. It connects me with works towards new repertoire.





-The album will include both of the Chopin concertos. Is this the necessary milestone for you like "a dot over i"?

The artist's duty is to seek continuous exploration and improvement. Surely this is another step related to Chopin. Over the past years after the Chopin Competition, I had the opportunity to play his pieces with various orchestras and conductors, which had an impact on the interpretation. Now of the most importance was how best we could do to prepare for this project. We chose the orchestra with whom I feel comfortable. It was important for me, and for Deutsche Grammophon.


-And how have you changed the approach to the music of Chopin from the time of competition?

It is hard to say. This is probably a natural process of artistic maturation. Presenting  specific pieces for different scenes makes a piece crystallized with fingers and also by heart and mind. There are no major changes. I have never been a supporter of controversial ideas of interpretation. I always put on the naturalness in life and music. I recorded these concertos so that they were sincere, flowing straight from my heart. I look for emotions, which may be accompanied by Fryderyk Chopin. I wanted to penetrate these emotions and show them through the prism of  experiences.


-Are these concertos most important pieces for you among Chopin’s music?

Not the most important. All of his works are very rich, but if you take down all the pieces, the time of their execution does not exceed 20, may be 22 hours. However, all are absolutely beautiful music. Chopin's concertos are valuable when it comes to performing with orchestra. When talking with Deutsche Grammophon to think about Chopin project, the idea of the Chopin concertos came up to us.  We wanted to emphasize the year 2010. I have them in my repertoire for relatively long time and therefore I decided to record them. It seems to me that the recording of music, which is supported by stage experience, it makes sense. You can then search for a various details and penetrate into the depth of interpretation.


-Even a few months ago you said that the orchestra you are going to do the recording of new album with  will be a surprise, but that they are the best musicians. How was collaboration with the Concertgebouw Orchestra negotiated?

I encountered with the orchestra first a year ago and even then I thought that this is a dream team of concertos by Chopin. It deeply fascinated me with their velvet color and precious, unique and sublime sound.
Characteristic of this orchestra is beautiful strings, but of course wind instruments deserve praise. When we recorded the  first part, all these small solo parts by bassoon, flute and French horn were real young masterpieces. Playing with these musicians and listening to recorded fragments already brought me a great pleasure.


-How were the members?

Very warm. At the first session - June 30, so on my birthday - the orchestra welcomed me with a triumphal fanfare.  There are a lot of young musicians. They drew the joy of playing with the Polish rhythms such as Mazurka in F minor concerto. They are very elastic and sensed all my intention. Relationship between soloist, conductor and orchestra is very important.




-Could you please tell me a little background? How did the recording sessions look like?

I was already in the Concertgebouw at 8 in the morning, sometimes even sooner. The session began at 10 am. First, the piano was prepared. Already a few days before the start of recordings I had the opportunity to talk with the tuner. I have good contact with him and he was able to appropriately prepare the piano for  each of the works in a way that I wished.


-How was the piano?

Concert grand piano of Steinway brand. I met a very wonderful piano and every time I play it in Amsterdam. It is almost four years, a very beautiful piano.


-Let us return to the session ...

We started from a concerto in E minor, then the Concerto in F minor. There was 25-minute break, and the whole session lasted about three and a half hours. Such a session, we had six, counting the dress rehearsal before the concert and the recorded concert. This is quite a long time, so we were able to do experiments without pressure. I remember the famous recitative of the second part of the F-minor, recorded in three versions. Each is a little different. It was the maestro Jerzy Semkow's idea to record the various versions and choose the one that best suits us.


-What have you learned from the years of cooperation with Deutsche Grammophon?

It is important to have control over the entire recording process. After returning to Poland I maintained a distance to what was recorded. Then I went to Hamburg to hear the material and choose the best (in '07 & '08). Also significant was the conversation with the people from Deutsche Grammophon about our projects and repertoire. They know the market very well German, French markets, and preferences by the public. Selecting such a conductor and the team with which I feel good was significant.


-Did you find some time to enjoy Amsterdam?

This time no, but I did some time years before. This is actually a very nice city with lots of museums. This time, unfortunately, there was not time. After finite sessions I returned to the piano and practiced. I worked on the sound, talked with the tuner and also made questions about parts which were recorded in the morning. However, my entire family enjoyed the charm of Amsterdam, because I went there with my parents and sister.


-Chopin year is coming and Chopin will be present throughout the world in many commercial forms - tales of Chopin, Chopin films… Do you like them?

Why not? If such methods can reach out to people who have nothing to do with music in daily lives, it is a good idea.


-Premiere of CD: Sept. 18. What are your further plans?

The year 2010 will be intense when it comes to concerts. I plan a series of performances in Europe, but I have serious plans to tour in the U.S. and Japan. I wanted to record a CD later in 2009, so that in the year 2010 I entirely devote myself to the concert activities.


-Thank you for your time.



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