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Nov 26, 2010

Review of Rafał Blechacz's recitals @Tokyo Opera City, and @Acros Fukuoka Symphony Hall

A review of Blechacz’s recital at Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall on October 19, written by Ms. Yo Morioka for “Monthly Chopin” December 2010.

He deepens musicality as the Chopin player of the new century
When the 16th Chopin International Piano Competition was held we were pleased to have Rafał Blechacz, the winner in 2005, touring here with all Chopin program.

At Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, he appeared breezily on the stage to play first Ballad No.1.  The freshness, performance with feeling, captivated the audience at once.  Then he played three Waltzes op.34 and Scherzo No.1.  The supple sense of rhythm, subtle delineation of emotions, the passion that he was unleashing…I was prompted to see Frederic Chopin himself superimposed on the posture of the Polish pianist.

After the intermission were two Polonaises op.26, four Mazurkas op.41 and Ballad No.2.  While transmitting heartbeats of his national, he single-mindedly gathered threads of music, producing crystal-clear, beautiful sound. The highlight of the evening was Polonaise op.53.  He represents the great harmony between the iron vitality and pure and natural musicality. I felt he truly keeps evolving as the Chopin musician of the new generation.

Yo Morioka
Born in 1956.  Graduated from Keio University Law School.  Studied in Beijing. Freelance writer for music magazines.  Wrote books about Fou Ts'ong, electronic organ, etc…

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"It's interesting that Scherzo in B minor has motif of “Sleep, little Jesus, sleep,” 
a traditional carol in Poland.  
Actually, my career in Japan began with this piece.  
I played it in the first stage of 2003 Hamamatsu Piano Competition.”
(Rafał Blechacz, from Newletter of Acros Fukuoka Symphony Hall)
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Another review of the recital in Fukuoka, on October 21, written by Prof. Toshiki Nagano, for Asahi Shinbun (national daily newpaper, western Japan edition on Nov. 9).

Fukuoka, Oct.21© Kazuhisa Shiihara
Recital by Rafal Blechacz, the winner of the 2005 Chopin Competition, at Acros Fukuoka Symphony Hall on October 21.
(All Chopin Program):
Ballad No.1, three Waltzes op.34, Scherzo No.1 (intermission) two Polonaises op.26, four Mazurkas op.41 and Ballad No.2.
(Encores) Polonaise op.53, Nocturne No.20 (posthumous), Mazurka op.50-2

His sound is distinctively unique. The sound core is a little bit hard and clear, solid and brilliant.  Always keeping optimistic tone and always full of nuances.  He leaves nothing to be desired for technique.  Any tempo, however fast, any passage, however difficult, he amazingly deals with it all without a problem. By just hearing him, I feel refreshed and satisfied.

It was best exemplified by his playing Polonaise op.53.  (My guess is that many people came here to listen to this Polonaise op.53 by Blechacz first-hand.)  With a faster tempo, he finished his work through in a breath, brimming with poetic sentiment.  Perfect!

Scherzo was the culmination of this style. Sometimes, however, I wish he put more skillful pause by, for example, stopping the flow just for a moment.  It can be said to other pieces.  In scenes of fast tempo, he goes ahead with rapid-fire pace, unfolding from one motive to another in rapid succession. So sometimes I cannot suppress the feeling that he is hasty.

On the contrary, when listening to slow parts, eg Waltz op.34-2 and the middle part of Scherzo, I was deeply impressed by the variety of sounds and the richness of poetic turns.

Lobby of Acros Fukuoka, Oct.21
Mazurkas best represented his musical personality.  The way he handles rhythms of the dance music is unique and realistic.  I should have heard these pieces many times, but his Mazurkas sounded refreshing, as if wearing new robes.

He is 25 years old. Still young and it is another attractiveness of this recital.

Toshiki Nagano
Born in 1956.  Graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts (aesthetics, history of music, history of arts).  Professor of Fukuoka University of Education.  Author of books about music history, music education.

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