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Nov 24, 2010

Review of Rafał Blechacz's concert @Tokyo Suntory Hall, Tokyo Opera City Hall

A review written by Tadao Aosawa for Ongaku-no-tomo (friend of music) Dec. 2010,
covering Rafał Blechacz's two concerts; at Tokyo Suntory Hall on Oct. 6 and Tokyo Opera City Hall on Oct. 19, 2010.

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Five years have passed since the Chopin Competition
He has further deepened the pianism.
By Tadao Aosawa

A masterly performance full of confidence

Feb. 2009
In autumn of 2010 when the 16th Chopin International Piano Competition was being held, Rafał Blechacz, the victor of the previous edition of the Competition, timely came to Japan.  He gave concerts with all Chopin program in Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama, Kawaguchi and Fukuoka, implying that these local cities in Japan are now gaining importance as concert venues equivalent to renowned music capitals of the world.  I had opportunities to attend two of his concerts.

First, I was at the special concert at Suntory Hall on October 6 featured with Chopin’s piano concerto in F minor with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Naoto Otomo.
The first half of the concert was a solo piano recital, beginning with two Polonaises of op.26. The C sharp minor is immaculate.  He knows how to play Chopin music; he let the peculiar combination of dominant and tonic chords progress lively; at the modulation in the middle, he skillfully brings out the best of tone colors.  When playing the E flat minor, the inward passion sounded not melancholic but refreshing, special quality of Blechacz’s interpretation.
In playing Mazurkas op.41, he naturally expresses distinctive characters of the four Mazurkas in a calm, relaxed breath without intentionally accentuating rhythms. An unpretentious approach; he has studied and digested interpretations of great master pianists in detail, creating a modern approach without letting personal arbitrariness in public.
He put a lot of spirit into his playing Ballade No.1.  All notes were played beautifully but some rapid passages sounded rough.  Did he become too excited?

The second half was dedicated to Concerto in F minor. His sounds are healthy and beautiful for describing feelings of youth exquisitely.  The yearning of youth and passion are out there in fineness.  Blechacz’s naïve sensitivity crystallized the very pure expression.  There was no novel approach, risk-carrying adventure, thrilling expression, or intense appealing power.  The baton of Otomo carefully shadows the soloist.  His meticulous support helped the Tokyo Symphony demonstrate the charm of the virtuoso concerto.  Krystian Zimerman was witnessed seated in the audience.  I guess that Blechacz receives a lot of useful advices from his compatriot mentor.  I sincerely hope that these two outstanding pianists will continue to explore their own styles.


On October 19, I was at his recital at Tokyo Opera City Hall.  The repertoire was Ballad No.1, Waltzes op.34, Scherzo No.1, Polonaises op.26, Mazurkas op.41 and Ballad No.2.  It was solo piano pieces of the special concert plus Waltzes, Scherzo and Ballad No.2.  He prudently chose pieces he acquired fully.  I wish I could hear a monumental work that could be a pillar of the recital.

He didn’t dare to experiment different interpretations or add a bold improvisation every time he performs. Rather, he offers consistent performances as the time passes peacefully.  The A flat major Waltz was ambitious, Scherzo was outstanding in hot blood and Ballad No.2 was comfortable hearing rich and lyrical expression with great emotion.  The honest pianist blessed with much talent.  I hope he will further mature into greatness.


Tadao Aosawa
Born on December 22, 1941.  Music critic.  Began writing for newspapers, magazines and encyclopedia in 1967.  Member of jury for music awards.  Personality for FM radio music program. Member of Tokyo Music Pen Club and Music Pen Club Japan.



(In the article, pictures of post-recital autographic session at Opera City are also shown, describing that more than 200 people lined for the rare opportunity to talk to Blechacz.  A testimony to the high popularity of Blechacz in this country.)

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