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Dec 10, 2010

A fan's view of Rafał Blechacz's recital in Berlin

The following is a review of Rafał Blechacz's recital in Berlin on November30, written by Ms. Marzena Jaworska, a fan of the pianist from Poland.
I would like to thank Marzena for sharing her wonderful experience.

Some personal impressions from Rafał’s recital in Berlin

by Marzena Jaworska (Poznań, Poland)

A few months ago I hit upon a wild idea of taking a train to Berlin to attend this recital. As the day approached, I booked some backpacker’s accommodation in the city centre and set off towards the railway station. After a mere 3 hours I saw the famous glass roof of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof; a few more hours and I will be there, sitting in the hall and listening to Rafał’s outstanding interpretations!

I walked out several minutes before 7 p.m. looking for the ship-shaped building of the Berlin Philharmony. After a 30-minute walk I was finally there, wielding the ticket in my hand.
The atmosphere in the foyer was quiet and relaxed, with a nice cocktail of German and Polish sounds. There were noble Berlinesi wearing bow ties… There were young people speaking Polish… Even the former German president was there.

Chamber Music Hall, Berliner Philharmonie
November 30, 2010
Courtesy Dana (Poland)
At 8 o’clock sharp the hall’s lights dimmed, the door opened and Rafał literally ran onto the stage, radiating with youthful joy and freshness. Having greeted the audience with a childlike smile and a deep, elegant bow, he sat at the Steinway and spent a while staring at the keys in silent meditations. Soon he played the first chords of the G minor Ballade, which unfolded into a compelling drama full of stormy moments and sudden twists of action. His narration sounded extremely mature, with profound attention being given to every note, every shade and every tiniest detail. Playing the waltzes, he invited us to a 19th century parlour filled with the atmosphere of witty flirtations and painful adieus. Scherzo in B minor, probably the most demonic piece of Chopin’s work, famous for its quotation of the traditional Polish Christmas carol “Lulajże, Juzuniu” (“Sleep, little Jesus, sleep”), was played in a simple, calculated manner, that only deepened one’s insight into the fury of a fragile soul deprived of the sounds, flavours and tastes of its beloved homeland. There was nothing more to be added at that point.

After the intermission we heard a beautiful rendition of Polonaises Op. 26 with their monumental Beethovenian opening passage followed by noble phrases of the traditional Polish dance. A master interpretation of Mazurkas Op. 41, the ones written during the composer’s stay in Valdemossa, echoed clearly with the rhythms of Kujavian folk dances, the sound of Spanish guitar and the melody of a certain well-known Polish 19th century uhlans’ song.
The pianist finished his story by playing Ballade in F major, which is nothing else but the oeuvre Chopin dedicated to his famous contemporary Robert Schumann; the one without a clear ending. A coincidence? Not with Rafał Blechacz on stage. His pianism, breathtaking as it is, doesn’t give the full picture of him as an artist. In Rafał’s case there is also avid interest in philosophy and esthetics, an attempt to understand and honour the turbulent history of both nations and a humble commitment to the Composer’s tradition.

His generous encores only confirmed my hypothesis. The first was Mazurka in A flat major op. 50 with its obsessive repetitions of the Kujavian theme and its final phrase symbolizing some kind of fulfillment. And, last but not least, the posthumous Nocturne in C sharp minor, which served as the main theme of “The Pianist” movie. Whatever you may think of its director, the film’s core point is showing the overwhelming beauty of Chopin’s music including its power to transcend any bitter division caused by the horrors of war. Chosen at random? Of course not. Rafał has talked about being hugely impressed by that picture on various occasions. Some listeners seemed lost for words. A standing ovation.

The audience made a beeline for autographs. I took my place in the queue, two CDs in my hand. I observed Rafał chatting informally with a group of fans. What should I tell a 25-year- old man who has just proved himself the most articulate philosopher of today’s classical stage?

I congratulated him on his beautiful debut recital in Berlin. He answered me with the most humble “dziękuję” I had ever heard. Simple and honest. Thanks God he’s coming back soon to play a recital in the Konzerthaus. On April 7th, which is my birthday. Could I dream of a more perfect setting for turning older?

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