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Mar 21, 2010

Review of Blechacz CD Chopin Concerti (US)

Review written by Matthew Guerrieri, a composer, pianist, and writer of US, often writing for Boston Globe, posted on thefastertimes.com on March 19.
He writes about two recent releases of Chopin by Deutsche Grammophon, Rafał Blechacz and Martha Argerich,
titled The Rhythm Thief: Chopin’s Timekeeping (about the tempo rubato)

Original review





(Blechacz's part of the review)
In time for the Chopin bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon has a couple of releases that show the variety of Chopinesque rubato in the musical wild. The first is a new recording of the two piano concerti by the pianist Rafał Blechacz, who won the 2005 Chopin competition—the first Polish pianist to do so since Krystian Zimerman in 1975.

So Blechacz’s performances are not just a victory lap, but a snapshot of what constitutes the current state of Chopin interpretation.

And when it comes to rubato, Blechacz is definitely not shy—this is big-wave surfing on a constantly undulating tempo. He’s abetted by a virtuosic performance from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Semkow—they’re with him every rolling step of the way.

Blechacz has a beautifully limpid touch: Chopin’s etched-crystal decoration is consistently sparkling, and his technique is up to following his imagination wherever is wants to go.

Especially in the first concerto, though—a live recording, unlike the second—stretching that might have worked in the heat of the moment comes off as indulgent in the cooler lens of a recording:

the slow movement in particular, there a sections where, a, slight, pause, before, seemingly, every, single, downbeat, eventually, disrupts, the, flow, of, the, music.

It’s not even so much the amount as the predictability—there are places where this performance, by a young Zimerman, takes more liberties with the rhythm than Blechacz does, but the emphases are so varied from bar to bar that the dramatic reckoning is just pushed farther and farther down the road, a Romantic version of the kind of perpetual suspension that somebody like Elliott Carter has been compositionally chasing all his life.

Blechacz certainly has the talent and the sound to be a great Chopin pianist—but, at the moment, he steals time only with the audacity of a smooth pickpocket. One hopes he moves on to more elaborate heists.
(End of Blechacz's part of the review.)



Oh, Matthew Guerrieri should have heard Blechacz's performance in Warsaw on Feb.22 via PR2 if he wants to see a heist. (a very noble heist, though♪)   

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