Preludia - Unofficial website for Rafal Blechacz


Oct 7, 2010

Rafał Blechacz's interview by Atsushi Oyamada, posted on TicketPIA website


An interview that Rafał Blechacz gave on Sept. 30.
Interviewer: Atsushi Oyamada

Original interview (Japanese)
It is a fact that he won the 2005 Chopin Competition and swept other prizes of Polonaises and Mazurkas.  But Rafał Blechacz, 25, didn’t look like obsessed by the past feat although those around him are concerned about it.

“Of course it was a turning point in my life.  After the competition, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to play before big audiences and move around by car and flight, dragging suitcases.  Now I need to decide a plan of three years ahead, which makes me think of life in a longer time span”, says Blechacz.  

But I had an impression that he has already departed from the seat for the prestigious competition’s winner to take a stride on the path of questing for his own music.  During the latest Japan tour in the year of Chopin’s bicentennial, he offers a program of pieces only by Chopin, including those that he’s played in Europe since earlier this year.

Mazurkas and Polonaise – not exclusive to Poles

--For Japan tour, you chose Polonaises, Mazurkas, Ballads and concerto in F minor to play.  You are conscious of Polishness.  Any specific purpose?

I didn’t mean to emphasize Polishness particularly but they represent important aspect of Chopin’s music.  As a Pole I would like Japanese audience to hear rhythms and melodies of those dances peculiar to Poland.  I want to make appealing of them not only to Japan but to other Europe.  In addition, I was awarded with prestigious prizes of Polonaises and Mazurkas in Chopin competition, so I would like you to listen to my current interpretations five years later.  Going forward, I want to put all the Mazurkas in my repertoire.

--We tend to believe that you play Polonaises and Mazurkas wonderfully because you are Pole; you should have something that a person of other ethnicity doesn’t understand.  Any response?

I must answer the question carefully.  I’ve never believed that I can play them very well or acquire the ideal style because I’m Pole.  It could be a little bit difficult for non-Polish but in Chopin Competition you can hear Asian contestants including Japanese play Mazurkas and Polonaises excellently.  There was a time that a Chinese pianist won Mazurka award. (Note: Fou Ts'ong in 1955).
Even Polish contestants cannot get that award easily, so I think that it is difficult to grasp that characteristic atmosphere.  If, for example, you are told that you cannot express well La soirée dans Grenade by Debussy because you are not Spanish, you feel sad, don't you?  What is important for Chopin’s music is musicality of individual pianists rather than Polish elements or rhythms, in my view.

I’m always conscious of how Chopin played.

--There are a wide variety of aspects to Chopin’s music.  What aspect is most important for you, Mr. Blechacz?

Everything – from a sense of beauty that I can read when looking at a score, to feelings and emotions included there, a kind of sound that Chopin could have had in his heart.  Among other things what is important for me is to “look for a sound”, which requires to always keep sharp.  In order for me to express a certain feeling written in a score, what kind of sound is the most appropriate?  It is a significant issue.  There are other aspects that I shouldn’t miss, for example, how to deal with the tempo rubato which Chopin warned that it shouldn’t be used too much and frequently.

--Chopin was a pianist, too, the same profession as you, Mr. Blechacz.  I guess that there are many occasions that you have to be conscious of him as such.

Reading the letters that Chopin left, his instructions to his students and reviews of how others evaluated Chopin’s playing is very informative.  For example, there is a letter which reads, “Chopin’s playing is as if played by an angel”.  By just reading this fragment, I can sense that a delicate expression was very important for Chopin.  Undoubtedly, I always try to find out “how Chopin would play this part”.  I cannot escape from it.  However there are differences between the time when Chopin lived and today in terms of instruments, concert halls and audiences.  How to translate what Chopin wrote to the context of today’s environment is another challenge for me.  If I can see Chopin now?  I would say “why did you write such difficult pieces?”  No, no, I wouldn’t.  Rather, I would say, “Thank you Chopin for leaving all wonderful music”.  If I add one more thing, let me say “I wanted you to compose more pieces.

--Which edition of scores do you use?

Paderewski that I get used to since my childhood.  When I was a child, the Ekier edition (National edition) didn’t publish all the pieces.  Also, I used Paderewski edition in preparation for the Chopin competition, I couldn’t afford to try difference edition overnight.

I want to play a recital in Hamamatsu

--I was informed that you have a ceiling of the number of concerts that you give in a year.

Yes, approximately up to 40 a year.  In the following year of the Chopin Competition, I gave a lot of concerts, which made me think about my optimal limit.  Therefore, I began putting the ceiling- 40 time a year-in the next year.  I could play more number of concerts but the time for other activities is important for me.  For example, I want to expand new repertoire, think of next planning for recordings.  In addition, I began study philosophy two years ago.  I have many things that I’m interested in other than music.

--If your limit is 40 concerts a year, Japan occupies your time significantly.

Because I’ve come all the way to Japan, I would like as many people as possible to listen to my music.  Here I have played in different concert halls and found that all have good acoustics and the audience is concentrated while I’m playing.  It’s wonderful for a pianist.  One thing weighs on my mind.  It’s about Hamamatsu.  It is the venue that I went to for the competition in 2003.  When I came to Japan for the first time, I went straight from Narita to Hamamatsu.  Many things about that city remain deep in my mind.  I have a wish to give a full-fledged recital in Hamamatsu and let citizens of Hamamatsu enjoy my music.  Ah, it reminded me of a good Polish restaurant nearby in Nagoya.  I was told that that restaurant was closed.  Don’t you know if Tokyo has a Polish restaurant? (smiling)

--And your future plans?

I would like to keep playing pieces by J.S. Bach and Debussy.  I played their music during my Japan tour three years ago.  And pieces by Szymanowski as well.  I’ve already decided the pieces that I will record for my next CD…May I reveal it? (making sure with a person in charge from Universal Classics sitting with him)…I’m planning to record for the next CD “Pour le Piano”, “Estampes” and “L'Isle joyeuse” by Debussy and Szymanowski’s piano sonata.  I hope you’ll enjoy my different aspect.

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