The interview that Rafał Blechacz gave for the TV program of documentary series "Maestro",
directed by Victor Grandits
which was aired on March 7, 2010 and will be re-aired on March 12 & 18 via TV ARTE.
The TV program was created at a time when Rafał Blechacz gave a recital at Laeiszhalle, Hamburg on October 6, 2009.
Blechacz spoke in English but in the TV program, it is partially voiced-over by German (or French, depending on markets) narration.
The ARTE TV Maesto website provides the German transcript of a part of the interview
and my friend Jan in Holland kindly translated it back to English.
I want to sincerely thank Jan for his kindness and generosity.
Original interview article from ARTE TV Maestro website (German)
Interview with Rafał Blechacz by Teresa Pieschacón.
The pianist Rafał Blechacz, born in 1985, is to be seen in a applauded concert on ARTE on Sunday 7 March 2010 at 19:15.
"I am looking for naturalness“
You seem so different from the hyperactive Chinese Sunnyboys….?
-- (Softly speaking) Do you really mean?
Yes. Could you imagine a career like that of Lang Lang with your rather quit personality?
-- Of course, this depends very much on the marketing. I am just beginning with my career. I may respond to your question with No. I need to retreat in order to develop my whole repertoire, and to reflect and to come to myself. 40 concerts per year is enough for me.
How did you grow up?
-- I come from Nakło, a small town with about 20.000 inhabitants, located in northern Poland- 30 km from Bydgoszcz and a hundred km from Warsaw. It is there very quiet and peaceful. My family and my piano were and are still my home and the music of Chopin. My father is an insurance agent, he plays the piano but not professionally, but he recognized in me the ear of absolute hearing. I listen to him while he played and I hummed the melody again, and gradually he discovered my musicality. But only after the Chopin competition 2005 for me it was really clear what should be my destiny.
You won in 2005. Do you, as a Pole, feel attracted to Chopin’s work?
-- Not only but also.
Chopin left his home land and went to France, what does home land mean to you?
-- (long pause)
Family is very important for me and my parents, who are very religious. Only in this environment I can develop myself artistically, I need that atmosphere. I love the forests, the food, the language, yes, it is my home land. And when I am traveling I miss my own piano and the language.
The star violinist Nigel Kennedy, who now lives in Krakow, said there is a great love for music around, there is a piano in every home. Is that so?
-- For us it was so, but I would not generalize. On the contrary, I experienced a very enthusiastic audience in London and also in Germany, the concert halls are full – in contrast to Poland.
A Russian pianist, composer explained to me the ranking for Russian music schools as follows: Bach is standing on top of all, but Chopin was the acid test: on the interpretation of his works the pianists are judged. And Mozart is something for the kids! What role is Chopin playing in the Polish education?
-- At the Arthur Rubinstein University of Bydgoszcz, where I started when I was 5 years old, we naturally also played Bach, but not less important was the romantic music of Chopin and Schumann. When I was eleven I was playing this for the first time. Mozart for children? How can you say so: Mozart is so difficult!
“One can achieve more with the ladies when you play Chopin rather than with Mozart”, Arthur Rubinstein would have said.
-- (Laughs) What shall I say? His interpretations of Chopin are very close to me: such a grandeur such an art. His interpretations were very important to me already in my childhood.
“Rubato” is a tempo instruction, not only in Chopin’s work, asking the artist to stretch or shorten the tones according to his own view. How do you develop a good balanced taste?
-- Personality, intuition and education are very important to express that good taste, just like learning about different styles and composers. If one uses too much rubato and idiosyncratic tempo changes then the performance could be kitsch and sentimental.
A problem of the interpretation of Chopin is unfortunately quite often: people seem to love him only as a tragic melancholic figure.
-- Yes. He could be quite different, he can be aggressive, powerful, male. Any type of kitsch was what he didn't like. I am looking for the genuineness, the truth, which is already very difficult. That is the only way I can touch the people in their hearts.
What else do you like to do?
-- When I am traveling I like to go to churches, because I love the organ music. And I love going to the movies.
Polanski’s “The Pianist” has impressed me very much. I even have an autograph of him.
(End of the interview article on the website)
"The comments of Rafał are very interesting.
Specially what he says about right interpretation of Mazurka Op.17 Nr 4. in order to reach the hearts of the people.
One can feel tention in the audience at the finish of his playing.
That is what he meant in the interview about "naturalness".
I love the music in this picture".
Jan was able to watch the TV program helped by his friend because his town's cable TV does not provide TV ARTE.
His impression was that "Rafał is more at ease and is mature as professional pianist".
I would like to thank Jan as well as his friend for sharing the feel.
About Mazurka op.17-4,
".....He played only one encore, the Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4,..... the moment faded, back to the wandering, and as the music limped into silence, there was a hush in the Terrace Theater that happens so rarely it sends a chill down the spine".
(review of recital in DC on Feb.27, by Philip Kennicott posted on Washington Post on March 1)
".....Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No. 4, was phenomenal. Blechacz gave unforgettable performance, his interpretation was mesmerizing: no one dared to applaud as the last note vanished in the air. There was still silence. Everyone tried to stay as long as possible in the Chopin’s World, brought to us by Rafał Blechacz with skill and sensitivity".
(review of Chopin Birthday Gala Concert on Feb.22, by Krzysztof Komarnicki posted on Chopin Institute website)
"Amazing situations happened to me several times at concerts in Japan, Germany and the Netherlands.
After playing four mazurkas of opus 17 by Chopin, no one applauded. Silence was absolute.
The audience was a kind of frozen. Something in hypnotized situation.
I had to wait quite a while before the next piece and withstand the silence.
(Rafał Blechacz, interview with Wprost, Aug.2009)