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Aug 29, 2010

Blechacz interviewed in San Sebastián

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An interview that Rafał Blechacz gave alongside with the recital in San Sebastián on August 27.

Original interview posted diariovasco.com (Spanish)

My life is normal, I have friends.  But it is the piano that gives me happiness.
By  Maria Jose Cano

If the great pianist Krystian Zimerman has an heir, he is, without doubt, Rafał Blechacz (Naklo, 1985). Like Zimerman, Polish, the young performer has been praised and recommended by his compatriot without equal. Today he arrived to San Sebastián for the first time, after leaving steps on the best venues in the world, signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon label and gethered the best reviews.



- Your biography is impressive. With only 25 years you swept the Chopin Competition in 2005 getting all the awards and now, in July, won the prestigious International Prize of Accademia Chigiana. How did you make it?
- I don't know. I think the most important thing is to love music and to be totally natural, both in interpreting works and in life. It may also influence that I think we must take into account the intentions and suggestions of the composers when creating their works, but at the same time I try to bring new things.

- Would you say that the secret of your success is the result of innate qualities or iron discipline?
- I think that discipline is important, we must practice every day and in a systematic way. Then there is development of repertoire, learn new pieces and styles. As a pianist you should embrace not only romantic music, but also perform Baroque works, like those of Bach, or impressionists. And playing the organ. In my case it is my second passion and it connects directly to my childhood, when I heard this huge instrument when going to church. I was impressed. Then I realized that my instrument was the piano, but still I like return to my village, a small town of 22,000 northwest of Poland, Naklo, and hear the organ.

- When did you know you would want to be a pianist?
- I started piano at age of five, but then, at 7, I went to study in Bydgoszcz, where the music school has the name of Rubinstein.

- I guess that to arrive where you are, you have had to sacrifice things. Do you think your life is normal?
- Yes My life is very normal. I've never been unhappy by having to play the piano, quite the opposite. Since childhood piano is what made me feel better. Today I still maintain my childhood friends, but my happiness, the piano gives it to me.

- Zimerman, Rubinstein, Paderewski. What do Poles have to give such excellent pianists?
- I could not answer, because besides the piano it is a very individual activity and there are many great non-Polish pianists who play beautifully Chopin, such as Maurizio Pollini and Martha Argerich.

- It seems that you follow the footsteps of your compatriot, Krystian Zimerman. Since winning the Chopin Competition 1975 any Polish had not won and in 1985 he also won the prize of the Accademia Chigiana. Do you see things in common with him?
- Zimerman is one of my favorite pianists, and he was the last winner before I won the Chopin Competition. I have good relationship with him. When I won the contest he sent me a letter of congratulations and offered me a help at a moment when I found it difficult, as agents and media called me and I did not know how to move around in that world. He provided me his experience. He invited me to his home in Basel and we worked for five days. It was very important. We keep in touch.

- Today you premiere in San Sebastián with music by Szymanowski, Debussy and Chopin. Why this program?
- I chose two Polish and one French composers to show the various relationships that exist between them. Szymanowski is not as well known as Chopin, but his music is very interesting because it conveys emotions and because of its harmonies. In turn, it is a little impressionistic, like Debussy and what I want to do is to show the connections that exist between Debussy and Szymanowski and between Szymanowski and Chopin.

- It is almost an obligation to include Chopin after becoming a reference interpreter of his music and because of his birthday.
- Certainly. I usually dedicate the second part of my concerts to this composer and the first half to various composers of my repertoire. Moreover, people expect me to play Chopin by my association with him.

- They say you combine energy and enthusiasm of youth with an unusual maturity for your age. How do you feel when you hear these praises? Are you influenced by critiques?
- What really matters is that people are fulfilled with my interpretations. In fact, more than criticism my studies of philosophy supports me very much, specifically Ingarden's aesthetics. The studies help me look for other interpretations, new aspects and seek for the identity of the music.

- Do you do a kind of special preparation before giving a recital?
- Practice and good knowledge of acoustics of the hall. I work together with the tuner to try to match the intonation of the piano with acoustics.  We look for the combination of all so that it can get the best results.

- You are only 25. Do you hear something more than classical music? You attend concerts?
- Sometimes when I'm in the car I listen to music on the radio show, but it is not usual. In general, I only listen to classical music. And yes, I go to concerts. In addition that I have mentioned of Zimerman, I heard Pollini in Salzburg and an opera directed by Gergiev in Tokyo four years ago. I travel a lot and I have no time to do much more. And I surely go to my concerts. (laughs).

- Any other hobby?
- Music is the most important in my life, but I am also interested in philosophy. Otherwise, my life is completely normal: watch television, movie and read books. I also like driving and when I play in Europe I usually drive with my family and my father and I drive. We all came to San Sebastian with my parents and my sister.

- How do you plan for the future?
- I would like to develop my quality, both technical and musical levels. As I have new repertoire I'm getting better. Also contact with the public and knowing new halls of their acoustics is important for me. I am very occupied, and I have many requests for concerts until 2012.

- However, you don’t give many concerts each year. Why?
- I play a maximum of forty concerts a year, solo and orchestral concerts. It is my ceiling and I don’t want more. I need time to study and develop new programs.

- What are your challenges?
- My dream from the beginning was to play for the public in the world. Since I won the Chopin Competition I made it. Looking ahead, I would like to explore new repertoire, something that the contract I have with the Deutsche Grammophon certainly helps me, and among other things I wish enjoying music, my job and life.

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