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Jul 26, 2010

Rafał Blechacz and his Steinway - interview in Austria, autumn 2007 (1)

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From my archive, this is an interview that Rafał Blechacz gave to Klavier – Friends of Steinway in Austria, April 2008 edition. The interview took place in the following day of Blechacz's recital at Konzerthaus in Vienna on Nov. 18, 2007.  Blechacz talks about his first impression of the instrument that he encountered in Steinway’s factory in Hamburg in spring 2006.

Original interview (German)
Please go to page 04 (two clicks away).




A man goes his way

The victory at the international Chopin competition in 2005 catapulted then 20-year-old Polish Rafał Blechacz from the Polish town onto the big stage of the world. Since then, the press is never tired of emphasizing his surprisingly mature and poetic playing.
A man goes his way
Interview: Stefan Knüpfer, chief engineer, Steinway in Austria

--Steinway Magazine: Mr. Blechacz, aside from your performance, what was remarkable for me in yesterday's piano recital was that there was no coughing at all, that you were photographed during the applause as a pop star and that the flower arrangement presented to you after the concert by the Polish Embassy was so huge that it had to be carried by two men on stage!  Is this exceptional state normal in your concerts?

Blechacz: I must say honestly that the yesterday's reaction was very happy for me. With my first concert in Vienna, I didn't expect so warm, so cordial reaction from the public especially since the Viennese public is very special and I am also conscious that the greatest artists play in Vienna.
Actually I had the impression that the listeners listened really deep. Especially then, if I played tiny dynamic nuances, for example piano, pianissimo. Then, I had the feeling that nothing of our interaction could hinder the concert. These are very special moments.
I was confronted with a similar reception during my last concert in Amsterdam. There was already a standing ovation even after the first part of the concert, which I had never experienced until then. Thank God, my debuts therefore proceed very happily so far.

The recital at Vienna Konzerthaus on Nov.18, 2007 was organized
by Polish government and Universal and many international organizations
which have representatives in Vienna were engaged.


--You played an all-Chopin program. Particularly the naturalness of your playing impressed me.   Everything you do seems as obvious as if you no longer have to think about it.
What do you think when you play Chopin?

Hm, that is a very difficult question (he laughs). The most important thing when working on a piece of music for me is to always reflect as truthfully as possible what the composer left to us. That one simply doesn't alter what is already there. On the other hand I want to play the music, as far as possible, between quasi sounds so that I create my own interpretation without changing the style of a composer.

--And what fascinates you specifically to Chopin?

Chopin’s music is very special for me, his emotions were always very close to me. I believe that my musical intuition plays a major role here. Somehow, I almost always knew that a given phrase should sound so and so, in such a rubato that should be played and modeled so and not otherwise.  I could feel this internally, and I try to present it.

(Then Blechacz describes that his life changed dramatically after the 2005 competition, inundated with a lot of offers of concerts, approaches form music agencies.  He now has to think about repertoire for concerts of two or three years later.  He was able to marshal the hectic situation with the great help extended by Krystian Zimerman.)

Suddenly famous: Rafał Blechacz responds gratefully

"I had to get used to the new reality just after the Chopin Competition".


--Are these 40 concerts decided by your will, your plan?

Yes. That is the maximum, that I can play at present, so that I still have pauses between the concerts. However, it is also decided in the agreement with Deusche Grammophon: With this number of concerts, I can present myself on the most important music markets.

--Did you get very many new friends and advisors overnight?

Exactly. Quite suddenly, hundreds of people gathered around me, everyone wanted something different from me. It was rather difficult (he laughs) to navigate it, but now, everything is again in order.

(Then Blechacz explained his strategy during the competition to remain calm.)

--I read that you won money for a grand piano of your choice. You then chose a Steinway B in the Steinway Factory in Hamburg. What makes your instrument so special?

I had nine instruments to choose from. Only the model B came in question.  The residential circumstances have over it – the room, in which the instrument now stands – decided.
All nine instruments were very good, the election was rather difficult. The instrument, that I ultimately selected, was the very first instrument, at which I had sat down. I immediately liked it very much. I rehearsed after it on other instruments, however, my feeling was dragged on to the very first one during the whole time. After one or two hours, I actually already was sure that this instrument, number 575336, was the model, which should be with me at home. Later, I only wanted to make sure by playing different works. Each repertoire sounded very good on this instrument. And in particular I was very enthusiastic about its sound quality. It is a grand piano, that has a very warm sound. Of course, it also sounds light – I mean in the upper register. One can also model the sound differently.
Even so, it enchanted me. Actually, each register is good in it – both the bass and the middle octave and the upper sounds. One didn't have to do any big intonation at it, it plays by itself very beautifully. Now, the grand is even better than at the beginning. A year and a half have passed since I began to break it in, and I practice rather intensively on it. But that is good because it warms up faster.


**
The last sentence is:
Aber das ist ja gut, weil er sich so schneller einspielen wird.
(just in case of my misunderstanding it.)


(to be continued)

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