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Aug 17, 2009

Not a prisoner of Chopin-Rafal Blechacz, Interview

Dziennik.pl posted an interview with Rafał Blechacz
titled "nie jestem więźniem Chopina (I'm not a prisoner of Chopin)" on Aug.16.

The interview took place in early July soon after the recording of his new CD
but topics expand way beyond that.

Interviewer: Michał Mendyk

Original interview from Dziennik.pl (Polish)

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We met him as a 20-year old winner of the Chopin Competition in 2005. Today he is already senior, artistically matured and play concerts around the world. He just finished recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Rafal Blechacz tells us how he feels about the label "the Chopin's pianist" and why he didn't play with Doda and Feel.



(The 1st part of the interview is about how he feels about Concertgebouw Orchestra. I'm skipping this part because it was already covered several times on this website.)



Haven't you ever tried to, as previously done by Krystian Zimerman and Piotr Anderszewski, reach the baton of conductor?

-As a child I dreamed of becoming a pianist, and the following years and experience just confirmed this choice for me.

I do not see a conflict between the cultivator of the various musical profession. It was not until the twentieth century that the tendency toward radical specialization became dominant. Previously, being a musician meant playing several instruments almost proficiently, conducting skills and experience in composition.

Today we can observe a gradual return to that tradition. More soloists, even Krystian Zimerman, decide to conduct behind the instrument.

I must admit that the prospect of directing a great team is very tempting. With a genuine fascination, I observed carefully the work done by maestro Semkow.

But for now I devote myself entirely to piano, and which direction my career goes to - time will tell.



While working on Chopin’s Preludes you listened to, among others Russian masters. Did they exert some influence on the interpretation of concertos?

-Yes, I am hugely impressed by the "Russian school" by Professor Neuhaus.
Performance in the concert hall of Moscow Conservatory, belonged to one of the most stressful, but also moving moments in my entire career - before me there were after all Rubinstein, Richter, Gilels, but also Gould. I do not see reason to forcibly enter into some tradition or school.

It seems to me the most valuable thing to the interpretation is to accurately read the composer’s ideas written in the score; in the second place, it is your own intuition, which allows you to understand what is hidden between the notes. Your own intuition, not typical for a region or a historical era.

I mean, Krystian Zimerman, with whom I am so often compared, also comes from our countryside of Europe, and still there are very few things that connect him with the stereotype of East Europe. It seems to me, moreover, that many of today's interpretation of outstanding Polish composer's music suffer from the excessively romantic, "Slavic" type of expression.

Let me explain further; about someone else’s recording, I generally consult it at a time when I already have in mind an established vision of the piece – and I would like to assert it rather than deny it.
[Wyjaśnię jeszcze, że po cudze nagrania sięgam zazwyczaj wtedy, gdy mam już w myślach gotową wizję danego utworu – i raczej po to, by się w niej utwierdzić, niż jej zaprzeczyć.]

Of course, in the case of Chopin's concertos - especially popular pieces – such external inspirations become almost inevitable. Since childhood, I listened to the whole mass of recordings and a gathered a large collection.

Probably the closest to me were interpretations by Rubinstein, but not the youthful ones - full of spontaneity and temperament, but those which come from the end of his career - full of deep concentration and works of extraction of beautiful sound.



In Anmsterdam and many other cities of music you already have regular audiences. Where do you most like to perform?


-Certainly in Germany, where they have a unique tradition of cultivating art of music.

I’m thinking of the beautiful and acoustically excellent rooms, but also of exceptional preconception by the public.

Evening concert is really holy here: everyone is ceremonially dressed, listen with faithful concentration. I do not have to say that this brilliantly affects the condition of the performer.

Of course I love to perform in Poland, before my "first audience", who always welcome me very warmly.

A nice and unusual experience was the ascent of my first CD of Chopin to the peak of the pop song chart. In 2008, I was even invited to the festival Top Trendy, where I was supposed to perform close to such performers as Doda or Feel. The term, however, coincided with my second session of recording for Deutsche Grammophon.



When will we hear and see you in Poland?

-In the Chopin Year I will be doing so many opportunities, which makes me very pleased. On February 22, which is the anniversary of Chopin's birth, I will play with the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit. Then my present interpretations of piano concertos in most major cities.



And don’t you feel yourself a prisoner of "the Chopin’s pianist" status?

-Definitely not, and this was reasserted to me by enthusiastic audience reactions to my interpretations of Viennese classics, Liszt and Debussy.

In fact, I devoted myself seriously to Chopin only a few years before the competition. Previously, I paid almost all the attention to the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to which with great joy I returned for my second album.

And if you ask about the CD of Chopin’s piano concertos, it was my own, voluntary decisions dictated by a desire to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer’ birth.

Moreover, as for the subsequent two albums, I definitely intend to reach the later solo repertoire, but for now I would rather not reveal details.

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