Preludia - Unofficial website for Rafal Blechacz

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Mar 31, 2010

Rafał Blechacz playing in Warsaw, by Fred Child(podcast)

Rafał Blechacz's performance of Chopin's Concerto in F minor at Warsaw Philharmonic on Feb.22, 2010 for Chopin Birthday Week's Gala Concert is available on the Performance Today website (host: Fred Child).

Orchestra: The Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Antoni Wit
Performance Today as of March 31, 2010. 
Please go to HOUR1, Listen.

It starts with Rafał's voice,
"He was in love...we can hear very intimate feelings, very intimate emotions, especially in the 2nd movement of this Concerto."
And Preludes opus28-2, 7 and 16 at the beginning of the program.
Concerto in F minor starts @24:35, preceded by a few words by Blechacz about the 2nd movement of the concerto.

The streaming is available for the next 7 days.


(Special thanks to Konstancja  for feeding this info from Facebook.)


Listen to Blechacz's Interview with Fred Child about Chopin's Mazurkas & Mozart. (NPR site)

Mar 30, 2010

THE PIANIST in Zurich - Rafał Blechacz played two encores

Rafał Blechacz gave a recital @Zürich Tonhalle, 19:30- March 29.


"Rafał Blechacz completed his short Swiss tour tonight in Zürich's Tonhalle.
There was a standing ovation and enthusiastic acclaim.

He played two encores, the first one, Nocturne cis-moll by Chopin,
Rafał announced to the audience as the one that saved Władysław Szpilman's life during the Nazi occupation of Poland,

(Szpilman was a Polish pianist and composer who was the main character in the Roman Polanski's Palm D'Or (Cannes) winning movie The Pianist)".




@Hamburg, Oct.2009



(News from Roman Frackowski -with appreciation.)




Sound track of "The Pianist"






Władysław Szpilman plays the Nocturne in C sharp minor.
From this site, I was able to listen to other performances by Szpilman, especially of Chopin's.



"...It was quite impressive a story of the pianist who was able to survive thanks greatly to the music...
Szpilman, the protagonist (of The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski), has a firm resolution as a pianist, energetic and really amazing,"
---says Rafał quitely but with enthusiasm.
(Rafał Blechacz,
interview in Japan in July, 2004)

Mar 29, 2010

Blechacz US debut recital (podcast)-Preludes op.28

Blechacz's US debut recital in April 2008 @Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, Kalamazoo, Michigan
podcast by Performance Today on March 29.

Chopin Preludes opus 28-9,10,11,12

Performance Today
Go to HOUR 2, Listen.
@50:45-55:17



US debut recital, 2008

Fred Child announced that on March 31, his program Performance Today will feature two Chopin Piano Concertos.
The F minor concerto will be Blechacz's performance. (probably from Warsaw's.)  

Mar 27, 2010

Review of Rafał Blechacz recital @Victoria Hall, Geneva

Review of Rafał Blechacz's recital at Victoria Hall, Geneva on March 25, 2010,
written by Julian Sykes, posted on Le Temps on March 26.

Le Temps review page (French)


Intense and purified Chopin
Julian Sykes

The Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, 24, has demonstrated his great eloquence at a recital Thursday night at the Victoria Hall in Geneva

This was one of those nights when the Victoria Hall in Geneva has been stormed by the discovery of a young artist. The Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, 24, is preceded by a reputation for gold. Not only has he won at age 20 the first prize at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw together with several special awards (including one issued by his compatriot Krystian Zimerman), but he picked up in the wake a contract with Deutsche Grammophon, the label of Rolls-Royce for classical music..

However, Rafał Blechacz has no profile of virtuoso fantasized by the major status. He is a simple young man, smiling, whose playing is a little bit of an image of his silhouette. Not a gram of fat. Clean lines are purified or unwound (it is displayed by the "Prelude" of Partita No.1 by Bach). His piano is based on the magnificent right hand, subtle, fluid, expressive, ideal to unwind the cantilena by Chopin. The left hand punctuates the speech with tact rather than rudeness, the pianist trying to lighten the textures for maximum clarity.

What he misses, sometimes, it is a revival of blast (souffle) and relief, as in "Prelude" that opens the suite Pour le piano by Debussy. The 3rd Ballade of Chopin (somewhat sluggish starting) does not reach the dreamy intoxication.

But Rafał Blechacz has more resources than we imagine. It is necessary to have heard his Scherzo in B Minor by Chopin to appreciate how he gradually unfolds his inner ardor, until the excessiveness of the last passages. The pianist has the art to make sing the middle part of Chopin so expressive (the central episode of that "Scherzo"). He built his interpretations. Voluntarily stretches arpeggios broken in the introduction to the Polonaise-Fantaisie to create an effect of suspense. And he makes his Polish temperament burst in the Mazurkas (the Opus 50 No3!).

There is this sense of rhythm that is reflected in the 1st Partita by Bach (engraved, but a little rushed) and the outer movements (the first movement played very fast) from Sonata KV 570 by Mozart. Finally there is his sense of the purification that led him to suspend the melodic line in the "Adagio of this sonata, as carried by the treble.



** Other reviews by Julian Sykes:
CD Chopin The Piano Concertos
Recital in 2006 Verbier Festival
There are other old reviews by Julian Sykes; I'll show them here sometime.



Jan.2007, in Poland



(Original Review)
Chopin intense et épuré
Julian Sykes
Le pianiste polonais Rafal Blechacz, 24 ans, a fait preuve de sa belle éloquence lors d’un récital donné jeudi soir au Victoria Hall de Genève

C’est l’un de ces soirs où le Victoria Hall de Genève est pris d’assaut pour la découverte d’un jeune artiste. Le pianiste polonais Rafal Blechacz, 24 ans, est précédé d’une réputation en or. Non seulement il a remporté à 20 ans un Premier Prix au Concours Chopin de Varsovie assorti de plusieurs prix spéciaux (dont l’un décerné par son compatriote Krystian Zimerman), mais il a décroché dans la foulée un contrat chez Deutsche Grammophon, Rolls-Royce des labels classiques.

Pourtant, Rafal Blechacz n’a pas le profil du virtuose fantasmé par les majors. C’est un jeune homme simple, souriant, dont le jeu est un peu à l’image de sa silhouette. Pas un gramme de graisse. Des lignes épurées voire effilées (ce qu’il affiche dès le «Prélude» de la Partita No1 de Bach). Son piano s’appuie sur une magnifique main droite, déliée, fluide, expressive, idéale pour dérouler les cantilènes chez Chopin. La main gauche ponctue le discours avec tact plutôt que rudesse, le pianiste cherchant à alléger les textures pour un maximum de clarté.

Publicité
Ce qu’il manque, parfois, c’est un regain de souffle et de relief, comme dans le «Prélude» qui ouvre la Suite Pour le piano de Debussy. La 3e Ballade de Chopin (début un peu anémique) n’atteint pas l’ivresse rêvée.

Mais Rafal Blechacz a plus de ressources qu’on l’imagine. Il faut avoir entendu son Scherzo en si mineur de Chopin pour apprécier comment il déploie peu à peu sa fougue intérieure, jusqu’à la démesure des dernières pages. Le pianiste a l’art de faire chanter le médium si expressif chez Chopin (l’épisode central de ce même «Scherzo»). Il construit ses interprétations. Etire volontairement les arpèges brisés dans l’introduction de la Polonaise-Fantaisie pour créer un effet de suspense. Et fait éclater son tempérament polonais dans les Mazurkas (l’Opus 50 No3!).

Il y a ce sens du rythme qui transparaît dans la 1re Partita de Bach (ciselée, mais un peu précipitée) et dans les mouvements extérieurs (le premier joué très vite) de la Sonate KV 570 de Mozart. Il y a enfin son goût de l’épure qui l’amène à suspendre la ligne mélodique dans l’«Adagio» de cette sonate, comme porté par l’aigu.
  

From Universal Italy site

Universalmusic Italy site posted a news of Blechacz on March 26.
Universalmusic.it

Rafał Blechacz interviewed on Musica of March
In an extensive interview in the magazine Musica, the twenty-five Rafał Blechacz retraces his career, from his first private piano lesson to the triumph at the 2005 Chopin Competition in Warsaw at age of 20.
Question after question, the story of this pure talent takes shape projecting toward the future, which he claims to be still marked by the works of Chopin, but also works by such great composers as Mozart, Beethoven and Szymanowski.

Blechacz also provides some anticipations of his next recording for Deutsche Grammophon, still in the design stage, but revealing that it will not be on Chopin's scores, nor with the orchestra.



Rivista Musica March, 2010.
Rafał was interviewed by Luca Segalla.
If you got and read it, let me know... 

Mar 26, 2010

Blechacz clinched great success in Geneva

"I bet nobody had ever any doubts that Rafał's recital in Geneva tonight will be a great success.
And it was!

With the same as the US program but enhanced with 3 mazurkas Rafał was very cordially received by the Victoria Hall audience.

After the first non-Chopin part he received huge applause
and after the 2nd part with the final note of the Polonaise the audience erupted in an unending ovation.
And after an encore the ovation was still going on even more intense".




(News from Roman Frackowski -with appreciation.)




Next recital will be @Tonhalle Zurich
19:30 March 29.


 Podcast from Radio Suisse Romande, introducing Rafał Blechacz and his recital in Geneva on March 25.
Listen to the podcast (French) A moment please. Quick Time Player will be launched.
Radio Suisse Romande website (French)

Mini review of Blechacz Chopin Concerti (Austria)

A mini review of CD posted on Wiener Zeitung as of March 25.


In Polish dreamer's hands
Blechacz, Rafał - Chopin Piano Conc
.


How much his homeland appreciates him cannot be overlooked when shopping in Warsaw: the CD Chopin Piano Concertos by Rafał Blechacz is displayed prominently alongside that of the Polish super pianist Krystian Zimerman.

And, indeed, the 24-year-old must not hide. In 2005, he won the Chopin competition, managed to have a contract with Deutsche Grammophon label and now enables his homeland to celebrate with splendor the 200th birth year of their national composer this year, serving as evidence that Chopin cannot be separated from Poland.




Because of his intimacy Blechacz’s playing is pro-romanticist: with all the finger-acrobatics, however, dreamy tenderness remains maintained. Blechacz achieves it through fine touch, but even more by feeling tempo. It may be that he lengthens some of his melodic beauty very far, but the flow of the two piano concertos never weakens. Nice transitions and balancing acts are heard here in its grace, boosted by the support of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under (how it could be different here) Polish conductor Jerzy Semkow.
  

Mar 24, 2010

Review of Blechacz CD Chopin Concerti (US)

Review of Blechacz's CD "Chopin Concertos" by Jed Distler, posted on Classics Today.com.

Link to the review by Jed Distler  

Rafał Blechacz' interview by Fred Child on NPR site

Rafał Blechacz's interview with Fred Child (see yesterday's posting) is now available on NPR website,
in a better organized manner with Fred Child's comment.
The links dedicated to Blechacz's playing Mazurkas and Mozart are also available.

NPR website






Fred Child wrote in a Facebook comment:
----Rafał will be back to help us close out the Chopin month on the 31st, playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in concert with the Warsaw Philharmonic. (Let's check the program of 31st!)

(Thanks to Konstancja for the info.)







The NPR's interview article has been quoted on a lot of websites yesterday and today
.



Rafał Blechacz will give a recital @Victoria Hall, Geneva, 20:30 on March 25.
  

Mar 23, 2010

Blechacz interviewed by Fred Child in US (podcast)

Rafał Blechacz was interviewed by Fred Child, the host of Performance Today in NPR studio Washington DC on March 2 when he stayed there for US tour.

He talks about himself, about Chopin, Mazurkas and performs pieces by Chopin and Mozart in the NPR Washington DC studio.

Listen to the program here (podcast)
Please click on HOUR 1, Listen



Blechacz's US debut @Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Kalamazoo, Michigan, April 2008

(Some points of the interview)
00:00-06:00
Introduction with Chopin Prelude in C sharp minor from CD "Complete Preludes"

(06:00-23:00 different contents than Blechacz's interivew)

23:00 - interview begins.
About the 2005 Chopin Competition
Why Blechacz feels Chopin's music is close to him.
Something special happened when he played Mazurka op.17 or.4 in a concert.

26:55
Blechacz plays Chopin Mazurka op.17 nr.4 in the studio.

31:05
About the tempo rubato.
Blechacz says it's important to keep the right balance between the tempo and rubatos. It differs among pieces and composers.

32:40
Fred Child says he was impressed by the varying speed of for example the initial phrase of the Mazurka op.17 nr4 and Blechacz plays it again.
Fred Child, impressed by the constantly changing speed, saying "It's like a human speech!"
Blechacz says, "For me the most important is to keep and respect the composer's intention".

34:15
Why Mazurkas are important for Chopin.
Does Blechacz play differently when playing for the Polish audience?

35:50
About Mazurka op.50 nr.2

36:52
Blechacz plays Chopin Mazurka op.50 nr.2 in the studio.

39:58
Blechacz says this Mazurka is lively, optimistic, with elements of a typical Polish dance especially in the middle section; and a few fragments are polyphonic where the middle voice by left hand is interesting,
and he plays the mazurka by emphasizing the middle voice.

42:35
Blechacz says that Chopin loved Mozart's opera getting inspirations and
plays Mozart sonata in B flat k570, the final movement.

46:50
Blechacz says that it's amazing Mozart composed such an optimistic, energetic piece when he lived a very difficult life.
He says that he can apply tempo rubato to Mozart music for ritenuto or accelerando but not too much because of the different style from Chopin.

------------------------------------------

Picks by Tom Huizenga of NPR of representative playing with a "Chopin touch" of years; Paderewski in 1917 through to Blechacz in 2007 (Raindrop from his CD) and to 2010 with audio presentations.
Comments on Blechacz begins at 8 minutes 40 seconds

------------------------------------------

In Poland, "Chopin's birthday".(Urodziny Chopina), a reportage of Chopin Birthday Week will be broadcast by TV Polonia
on March 25 @22:20 (CET) and
on March 26 @04:00 (CET).
(Thanks to Beata and Dana for the info.)      

Mar 21, 2010

Review of Blechacz CD Chopin Concerti (US)

Review written by Matthew Guerrieri, a composer, pianist, and writer of US, often writing for Boston Globe, posted on thefastertimes.com on March 19.
He writes about two recent releases of Chopin by Deutsche Grammophon, Rafał Blechacz and Martha Argerich,
titled The Rhythm Thief: Chopin’s Timekeeping (about the tempo rubato)

Original review





(Blechacz's part of the review)
In time for the Chopin bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon has a couple of releases that show the variety of Chopinesque rubato in the musical wild. The first is a new recording of the two piano concerti by the pianist Rafał Blechacz, who won the 2005 Chopin competition—the first Polish pianist to do so since Krystian Zimerman in 1975.

So Blechacz’s performances are not just a victory lap, but a snapshot of what constitutes the current state of Chopin interpretation.

And when it comes to rubato, Blechacz is definitely not shy—this is big-wave surfing on a constantly undulating tempo. He’s abetted by a virtuosic performance from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Jerzy Semkow—they’re with him every rolling step of the way.

Blechacz has a beautifully limpid touch: Chopin’s etched-crystal decoration is consistently sparkling, and his technique is up to following his imagination wherever is wants to go.

Especially in the first concerto, though—a live recording, unlike the second—stretching that might have worked in the heat of the moment comes off as indulgent in the cooler lens of a recording:

the slow movement in particular, there a sections where, a, slight, pause, before, seemingly, every, single, downbeat, eventually, disrupts, the, flow, of, the, music.

It’s not even so much the amount as the predictability—there are places where this performance, by a young Zimerman, takes more liberties with the rhythm than Blechacz does, but the emphases are so varied from bar to bar that the dramatic reckoning is just pushed farther and farther down the road, a Romantic version of the kind of perpetual suspension that somebody like Elliott Carter has been compositionally chasing all his life.

Blechacz certainly has the talent and the sound to be a great Chopin pianist—but, at the moment, he steals time only with the audacity of a smooth pickpocket. One hopes he moves on to more elaborate heists.
(End of Blechacz's part of the review.)



Oh, Matthew Guerrieri should have heard Blechacz's performance in Warsaw on Feb.22 via PR2 if he wants to see a heist. (a very noble heist, though♪)   

Mar 19, 2010

Review of Blechacz NY recital by Jay Nordlinger

Review of Blechacz NY recital on Feb.26, written by Jay Nordlinger as a part of recent artistic activities in NY, posted on CetyArts on March 10.

Original review




A young pianist, a seasoned composer and a performance of ‘La Bohème’

By Jay Nordlinger

Rafal Blechacz is a hotshot pianist, a young Pole. He is 24, though he looks about 16. When I first heard him, he had just turned 23 and looked about 12. He won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2005, age 20. Naturally, his countrymen took pride. There had last been a Polish win in 1975, when Krystian Zimerman was the victor.

On a recent Friday night, Blechacz came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to give a recital. The program he played was a mixed one: some Baroque music, some music of the Classical period, some Romanticism, some French Impressionism. His composers were Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Debussy. This is the sort of program that musicians offer when they are first starting out. They want to show, or are asked to show, what they can do in a variety of genres. As they get older, they tend to narrow down: offering one-composer evenings and the like.

This is a shame, really, because a mixed program can give you a wonderful evening. Think of a multi-course meal, interesting, well-balanced and satisfying.


Blechacz is a satisfying pianist. He has an obvious eagerness about music, a keen desire to play the piano. There is sometimes even a puppyish glee. The audience cannot help responding to this. Blechacz has a good technique and general musical intelligence. He also has some fire, some youthful impetuosity—may he never lose this, as maturation sets in.

There are some problems: Blechacz sometimes falls into boxiness or a mechanical, clattering state. In a Mozart sonata, there were some harsh, out-of-place accents. The music could have used more grace and lilt, a surer sense of line. Also, sound is not a specialty for Blechacz: You would not go to this pianist for beauty of sound. And you need a broader palette of colors truly to convey Debussy.

Reservations aside, Blechacz is a bright, joyful addition to the musical scene. He grins, you grin.
(End of Blechacz's part)


Read Nordlinger's review of Blechacz's recital in Salzburg, 2008.


Nordlinger's observation this time at NY is not always correct, in my view, especially of Blechacz's sound (his writing here is absolutely wrong); the blizzard that affected NY area since previous night may have caused a hubbub in his mindset(?), but I would post this article here 'cause it looks like Nordlinger puts some points popping into his head and overall he likes Blechacz's playing very much.   




Rafał Blechacz's recital in Hamburg aired by TV ARTE (Video)

I know that the Youtube videos of Blechacz's recital in Hamburg Laeiszhalle were deleted because of the copyright claims and no longer available.  However, I will keep this article because it is helped by fans of Blechacz's music in different countries.  With deep thanks.  (August 23, 2011)


I also know that these videos are still available on several websites.  However, I will not post them here again because it is infringement of the copyright. (December 2011)



TV program of documentary series "Maestro", directed by Victor Grandits
which was aired on March 7, 2010 via TV ARTE, is now available via YouTube.

The TV program was produced at a time when Rafał Blechacz gave a recital at Laeiszhalle, Hamburg on October 6, 2009.


Blechacz spoke in English but in the TV program, it is partially voiced-over by German narration.

Jan, a fan of Blechacz in Holland translated the German back into English, which is placed under each video with approximate time.

Let me thank Jan thousands times for giving us the clue to understand what is discussed here.

(It often deeply impresses me that people of the Netherlands and some European countries command multiple languages; if I can be born again I want to live in such a cosmopolitan environment.)

Please understand that some English wordings here may have been changed from the original remarks by Blechacz in the process of conversions between two languages.



 (Chopin Polonaise Fansasie in A flat major op.61)

0:29
For me the most important is to be natural, in life and also in playing the piano. Then the interpretation is authentic, because it is real and the audience can understand it in the right way.

(from Szymanowski Variations in B flat minor, op.3, Variation XII: Allegro con fuoco )

1:16
Seeking for very...extremely original version of the piece... (sorry not audible)...I'd like to follow.

1:30
Because for me it is important to understand the core and all composers intentions.

1:42
Of course I can show my emotions but an interpretation must reflect both: my own feelings, those of the composers as well as the style of the composer.

(Chopin Mazurkas op.17-2, 3)





00:05
When I took part in the Chopin Competition a dream came true. I had no idea how well the others were. Before and during the competition I had no contact with other participants. I did not know their level. I did not watch TV, or listen to the radio or read newspapers. I wanted to concentrate on my own program. I think it helped me to get the right concentration.

(Chopin Heroic Polonaise op.53, from 2005 Chopin Competition)

01:26
When I heard the results. I was very very happy. The first prize: for the best mazurka, polonaise piano concerto and piano sonata. And the second prize was not awarded. Krystian Zimerman sent me a wonderful letter with congratulations and he wrote that from now on your life will be completely changed.

(Chopin Ballad No.3 in A flat major op.47)

07:25
I am always very happy when I can share my experience with the public. For an artist it is very important to collect stage experience. I see that it changed my own playing after experiences with the public/audience. In my case often it is my idea and intuition that makes my interpretation. I know simply how a certain part must sound specific.

(Chopin Prelude in E minor op.28-4)




00:02
Of course Chopin’s music is very close to me, to my heart. There are emotions that I can understand very well. Like melancholy, grief, desperation, which are in mazurkas. But in Chopin’s music there is also joy, especially in the early compositions, as the piano concertos. But when he lives abroad in Paris maybe sometimes he had a lot of sadness and pain. We can hear it. I remember a concert where I played the Mazurka s Op 50 and 17, Op 17 which I also play tonight. The last mazurka Op 17 is very nostalgic and very ….. This is the end….. And when I finished the audience did not react. They did not applaud, it was fully quiet, hypnotized. That was for me a big sign, because I did know that the audience the interpretation, my interpretation, really liked very much. So it was amazing.

(Chopin Mazurka in A minor op.17-4)




(Chopin Polonaise Fantasie in A flat major op.61)

00:01
For example Polonaise-Fantasie … amazing piece, probably the most difficult, because everything is in it. Of course you can find the characteristic elements of the polonaise, the typical Polish dance. Above all this piece has many unconventional moments. It is difficult to explain. For example the end of the polonaise, an unbelievable place, which reminds me an internal struggle, leading to a victory in the end. Specially the last accord is important for me: it sounds like the ultimate fulfillment. That seems to be a little philosophical, but this music has a lot to say. But I can feel that something important is in this music.




(Chopin Polonaise Fantasie in A flat major op.61, continued)

06:27
We experience in our life a lot of emotions and feelings. I will be happy when I can express these into music. This is my role to enter in the emotions of the composer and bring these emotions afresh.

*************************************************************



From a a blog by a French person who watched this TV program and was astounded and deeply moved by Blechacz's playing Chopin pieces.



It's amazing that I can watch such a program at home without going to Germany.
The program is extremely well done, very inspiring, historically important and I suppose it will be watched by next generation, too.
I would like to thank all the people who made it possible to watch the wonderful program.

I also noticed that the German audience is very nice as has been described by Rafał Blechacz several times in interviews; neatly turned out, attentive to the artist's performance and well-versed in music.

"The ultimate fulfillment", suggestive expression, helping me understand a little better the way Blechacz plays the last accord of Polonaise Fantasie.




Mar 18, 2010

Review of Blechacz recital in NY Feb.26 (UK site)

Review of Rafał Blechacz's recital at Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium,Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, on Feb.26, 2010,
written by George Grella, posted on Musicweb International, privately operated review site of U.K. of music and arts.

Review from Musicweb International


Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Chopin: Rafal Blechacz, piano, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 26.2.2010 (GG)



Bach: Partita No 1 in B flat Major, BWV 825
Mozart: Sonata in B flat Major, K. 570
Debussy: Pour le piano
Chopin: Ballade No. 3 in A flat Major, Op. 47, Scherzo No 1 in B Minor, Op. 20, Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat Major, Op. 61

Rafal Blechacz’s Metropolitan Museum recital was a tale of two concerts, told in two halves. One half was fresh and technically sharp, but also a little flat. The second was just as technically accomplished and also committed and fiery. It was two concerts by one pianist.

What made the difference? Some combination of experience and personal passion, I believe. Blechacz played the music on the first half of the program – Bach, Mozart and Debussy – extremely well, but not memorably well. The all Chopin second half was absolutely memorable. In all cases he ably produced the notes on the pages of music, but at his best he expressed something about those notes.

His Bach Partita began with the combination of lively tempo and legato phrasing. He’s young, appearing almost just out of school, but plays with an unfussy elegance more often associated with mature musicians. He also played Bach with a cool objectivity, which can work but is a tough choice. Bach can be all about the notes, because the combination of the notes is so evocatively complex, but that is a type of expression that Blechacz didn’t choose. His sound was warm, the inner voices clear, and his exact tempo was bracing, but it was an unhappy mean. There is so much music there, so many ideas, the warmth can be pressed as can the severity. The rich Sarabande offers so much grace and lyricism, but the pianist was content to offer the specifications and little else. The playing was very fine and there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the performance, it just gave no idea of what Blechacz thinks of Bach.

The meeting of musician and Mozart was a little more simpatico. The brilliance of the music and the flourishes of the details suit the charm in Blechacz’s playing. His precision and clarity in tempo and phrasing in this music were ideal, and there was a great deal of zest. Still, the objective view held, and the meaning of the performance was inscrutable, or perhaps just as yet unrevealed to the musician – he seems to be in the process of thinking about what it means to him. Debussy was also subjected to this dry sensibility; the Prelude was held back a little, the Sarabande tender and pithy and the Toccata sounded strikingly, and oddly, like Bach, but this time with a more supple sense of tempo.

Blechacz has made a name for himself as a player of Chopin, and that music seems to give him the opportunity to reveal himself. He was a totally different pianist. After the first half, the main question was will he get wild in this frequently wild music, and the answer was: absolutely. Chopin clearly excites and satisfies him, he is subjective in a positive sense in these pieces; he has views of Chopin and arguments to make about the music. Plenty of musicians have stellar technique, but it is the thinking that makes a musician important, and Blechacz could be an important Chopin player. He doesn’t lose his clarity and elegance; rather to it he adds force and a sense of exploration. There is a magic about Chopin in that he seems to suspend time for what really are the briefest moments by filling the space in between salient musical events with intense bursts of activity and contemplation, he is the flâneur who catches a glimpse of something in casual mid-stride and, not breaking step, follows an infinitely ruminative path from that inspiration, with the next footfall eliding that previous moment with the next to come. Blechacz seems to implicitly understand this, as everything speaks with some meaning, nothing is given short shrift or treated as merely ornamentation, nor is anything mannered. His playing of the Ballade was tender and wild, the Scherzo was fiery and wandered through the quiet interlude without specific aim but with an overall purpose, and the Polonaise-Fantasie was special, especially the extraordinarily poetic playing of the opening statement. These pieces were rewarded with a rapturous ovation. Blechacz may be finding his way through the piano literature, but he has already staked a notable claim on some of its most important pieces.



George Grella

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

My personal impression is that the reviewer lacks the sensitivity to grasp the profoundness and versatility of Blechacz's playing. He seems to adhere to the stereotyped notion that Blechacz is a superb Chopin player and gives very uninspiring views on Bach, Mozart and Debussy; "it just gave no idea of what Blechacz thinks of Bach" (it's your lack of insight, Mr.reviewer), "Debussy was also subjected to this dry sensibility" (it's simply wrong).






This one, in Polish, by Sporek is about the Chopin Anniversary celebrations in Poland (asking why Lang Lang opened the Anniversary on Jan. 7, not a Polish pianist? Very critical about Polish organization of the Anniversary).

Original review (Polish)
English (machine-translated)



(With appreciation to Roman Frackowski for the info.)

Review of Blechacz CD Chopin Concerti (Italy)

A review of Blechacz's CD "Chopin The Piano Concerti" written by Capitoni Federico, posted on Giudizio Universale.


Original review (Italian)

Two hundred years of Chopin/ part 3: this young man is already a classic
The twenty-five-year old Polish Rafał Blechacz plays the First and Second Concertos for Piano and Orchestra. He is a virtuoso, but also has a sensitivity that approaches the great interpreters of the past.

by Capitoni Federico




-------------------------------------------------- --------------
From time to time the spirit of Chopin decides to incarnate in the body of a young pianist. Most recently he has tried in the wrong containers (such as Lang Lang) and instead nowadays Chopin is in the slim body of 160 cm (or so) of Rafał Blechacz, twenty-five-year old Polish, the winner of the Chopin Prize in 2005.

Blechacz had already surprised you publishing (always for Deutsche Grammophon) the 24 Preludes three years ago and today – in the sea project (=very big project) of the incisions edited to celebrate the bicentennial of Chopin - this new cd with the two concertos for piano and orchestra is among the best sellers.

Now, the fact that the cd climbs the chart would be irrelevant to if this time it doesn't deal with a fashionable pianist, but with the one who is really worth.


Blechacz is precise, is virtuous, but is also gentle, introspective. In essence, besides being exceptionally musical, he is (already) mature. Those who follow him in concert realize that there are no setbacks, Rafał is always perfect.

As the great (currently perhaps the greatest) Grigory Sokolov says, the musicians are appraised live, the disks don't have value: here, Blechacz satisfies all because in this disk the 1st Concerto is recorded live, and no sign would let it suspect.

Therefore, you can respond to those who accuse the next generation of sterile outwardness that perhaps we could find an heir to the older giant. You can say that Blechacz reminds you of Krystian Zimerman ... But it is a personal opinion that borders on heresy.

The only risk that young Rafał runs is that his maturity, his being a classic pianist before growing into (a) classic, may bring him to an early downfall. As happens with fireworks that fade as soon as we have seen the sparkle. It takes little Blechacz to go from rising star to well-shining star; we just hope that he is not turned off early, not collapse suffocated by his own extraordinariness.

**
A very good review! except for a wrong data....Blechacz is not 160 cm, by far the taller, a charming 24-year-old artist (not 25).   

Mar 16, 2010

Comments to Philip Kennicott, Washington Post

Philip Kennicott, a writer of Washington Post specifies that he wrote a review of Blechacz's Washington DC recital on his blog as of March 1.

"The young Polish pianist is very much worth hearing. He came through Washington to make his local debut at the Kennedy Center this past weekend. I reviewed it for the Post. One of the things I most enjoyed was his courage to confront what I call Chopin’s “memory effect”:

There is a recurring trope in Chopin’s music that one might call the “memory effect.” Out of inwardness, darkness and anxiety a melody will emerge, simple, childlike, barely adorned, like a nursery rhyme remembered in the midst of a shipwreck. The power of these terrifying flashes of something sweet and uncorrupted embarrasses all too many pianists. Not Blechacz, who found primal innocence in the brief snatch of happiness around which Chopin builds the tempests of the Scherzo in B Minor, Op. 20. It was pure magic".

--------------------------------------------------------------

↓ Two comments to the review by Philip Kennicott that I saw on The Classical Beat.
I have no complaints about what Kennicott wrote of the recital, but I would agree with the three points discussed below.

************

"But no one came for Bach, Mozart or Debussy".

Thank you, but how do you know this?

I imagine that some listeners were – or would be -- as interested in Blechacz's interpretations of the somewhat ‘scattered’ thoughts and chromatic anguish of some late middle-period Mozart, late-period Haydn, and Beethoven (of several periods starting perhaps with Op. 13, if not before), as well as the scattered thoughts and chromatic anguish of Chopin.

Posted by: snaketime1 | March 1, 2010 2:17 PM |


*****************

It would have been best if Mr. Kennicott had left his ego and patronizing attitude at home, and brushed up on what happened at the Chopin piano competitions and on the American TV since the sixties.

To all the readers who were not able to hear Mr. Blechacz's performance this time, I would say let's all hope the WPAS gets a bigger hall the next time he is in Washington and a grand piano that can take Mr. Blechacz's dynamic range without recoiling like a Civil War era cannon.

Posted by: voytekkas | March 1, 2010 10:40 PM | 

Blechacz's interview with with Anna Skulska of Polish Radio, Feb. 21, 2010

The interview that Rafał Blechacz had with Anna Skulska on Feb. 21, the day before the Chopin Birthday Week Special Concert on Feb. 22, which was broadcast on Feb.23 via Polish Radio 2 during the intermission of the Special Concert.
Excerpt of the interview in English that Dana prepared for the readers of Preludia.
(Many thanks to Dana.)

Listen to the interview (podcast)



@Wiener Konzerthaus, November 2007

************************************************************************
(Main topics of the interview)
1.The impact that stage experiences have on the same performer and his interpretation.

2.Search of Chopin's secret ...

3.Meetings with the great musical masters: Valery Gergiev, Jerzy Semkow, Antoni Wit, Mikhail Pletnev, Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman.

4. His future plans related to the Chopin Year celebrations.

***********************************************************************

1.
The impact that stage experiences have on the same performer and his interpretation.
Anna Skulska: AS
Rafał Blechacz: RB

AS: We meet again in National Philharmonie in Warsaw where almost five years ago you had the great success. You come back regularly. One can say that you are the favorite of Polish public. It is faithful audience to laureates of Chopin Competition. But I think that every time you must captivate their hearts, aren’t you?

RB: I have this task on every concert not only in Warsaw but in other places too and it doesn't matter if it’s first time or many times. You have to win audience every time and it always is a very joyful thing for me to be able to play for the public who expect music from me.


AS: But when you come on a stage do you feel breathing of hall?

RB: Yes I do. This contact with public is very important from the beginning yet before playing. I feel when a public already know me, for example, in Amsterdam. I was there four times and felt that the public remember me with previous concerts .When I play for the first time this reaction is different. Another man is coming, a young artist so we will see what he wants to show us. It is nice because it mobilizes and gives a power for the best playing.


AS: Almost five years have been since the last Chopin Competition. You have met many new people, gained new concert halls, got ready for new repertoire. I think this all have influence on Chopin's music. Do you feel it?

RB: The stage experience changes a bit my attitude towards the same works and also towards new ones which I prepare for the next season or recording. I always go to recording studio when I’ve known works very well, when I’ve tested them in all possible ways on different stages for different public, with various pianos.


AS: You played Chopin's concertos with various conductors.

RB: I had four concertos under maestro Pletniev and his orchestra during my tour in Japan. It was his version, Russian version. There aren't changes in my part except for small ones. The orchestra had a monumental sound. Cooperation with maestro Semkov and RCO was very magnificent. I always dreamed of this sound and I was very happy when I heard it live. Also the cooperation with maestro A.Wit is well too. Chopin's concertos are full of youthful enthusiasm. My Chopin Competition, emotions and the venue Warsaw have a big influence on what’s happening here now.


2.
Search of Chopin's mystery

AS: This year we get to know Chopin better than earlier. There are many concerts, many publications about Chopin's life and works and still they remain veiled, in the misterious mists. Do you try to discover this mystery? Which work was for you the biggest challenge?

RB: There are many moods in Chopin's works which can make you a reflection, offer different associations. They are very individual experiences but of course very important for the interpretations. These experiences ought to be reproduced in one's inside in order for a listener who came to hear this interpretation to feel them as his own experience.

Which Chopin's work was the biggest challenge for me ? Both of the concertos are very exacting, Mazurkas. I think that Polonaise Fantasie is very demanding work. It seems that it is Fryderyk Chopin's testament where there are the whole his works. There is polonaise and many fragments of improvisation, reflections, plenty of different feelings, emotions of sorrow, total despair to the great victory. The final is absolutely incredible. Every time, when I play it I am under the huge impression of how much emotions are included in it .What did Chopin feel at that time, what did he experience? I think one can't describe it, one can't say it.

3.
AS: One year ago you reminisced about the meeting with Maurizio Pollini. Did you have another occasion to see him again?

RB: No. I hoped to see him again in Italy this year during my tour but Maestro Pollini was in Germany at the same time. He performed in Berlin and Baden-Baden. But I was at Krystian Zimerman's concert in Ferrara at the theater. He played only Chopin's works, two Sonatas, Nocturne op.15, Scherzo in B minor and Barcarolle. His playing was very suggestive. I was under a big impression full of emotions. It was an unforgettable experience for me and a great lesson. The moment like this is an inspiration to make a search for music.
It is difficult to say now what. But it is somewhere in the subconscious and later in a right moment it will prove necessary. It was beautiful Chopin music and the public was full of enthusiasm.

AS: What about Maestro Jerzy Semkow?

RB: A person of great charisma and majesty. It was especially noticeable in the first parts of concertos which are "maestoso". The symphonic concept of them is interesting in accordance with the romantic style in my opinion. RCO liked Maestro Semkow very much. It was the first meeting with him. They told about his suggestiveness and his sense of humor.


4. Future plan + α(other questions not included in the podcast)
AS: A year ago you said that going into business of music world wasn't easy. Is it now getting better?

RB: Definitely better than at the beginning. Now I know all the people who arrange concerts for me in the world. I keep in touch directly with my agencies, my managers.


AS: You can set conditions, make choice...

RB: Yes, sometimes. The most important thing for me is choice of repertoire. What I want to play and feel in it is the best. The prestigious halls as the one in London and even Concertgebouw demand repertoire even two years forward. It is difficult to say if I will play, for example, Beethoven's sonata as I would wish myself. The program is changed because of this. However other pianists do the same, it's natural.


AS: Many pianists attach importance to instruments. Here in Warsaw there are several of them to choose. How is it in other halls?

RB: In the prestigious halls such as Tonhalle, Concertgebouw, Herkulessaal you can choose from two or three pianos. They are usually Steinways. You can encounter different kinds of quality, mechanism. I understand a pianist who goes around with his piano tuner or instrument. In the prestigious halls the level of pianos is very high and piano turners too.
In smaller halls it is not so favorable. For example small theaters in Italy have only one piano. The piano turner can make it very well or you can order another instrument from a bigger town nearby. But…sometimes it could be very good when you should play with an inferior piano, then you can appreciate it better and fly like a bird when you play it better. Sometimes playing on the lighter or heavier mechanism hardens and strengthens you. Artist must be up to a task in every situation.


AS: Do you analyze your interpretation after concert?

RB: You can't calm down your emotion so quickly, it's difficult. I can't sleep after concerto or recital. I fall asleep about 3 or 4 o'clock a.m. Also I found the way for it. If the road to next town isn't too far during my tour I go by car. I leave all behind me and think only about the future concert. Sometimes I analyze what I ought to correct, sometimes I make a deeper analysis.


AS: Do you talk with others people about your performance or listen to their opinion?"

RB: No, not really.


AS: What are you working on now?

RB: Bach, Mozart new sonatas and piano concertos. I already have the repertoire for new two CDs. They will not be Chopin's music. I can't say more about them, sorry.


AS: You came back from Italy. You performed in Rome, Milan. Come back to Rome, this hall...

RB: Santa Cecilia hall.


AS: You played the F-minor concerto. Was the atmosphere the same as during the Chopin Competition?

RB: It is difficult to say. The public’s enthusiasm was very huge, two encores, thunderous applause, shouts of ecstasy, very nice behavior which is very pleasant for artists. They liked my interpretation and this is always very important for me. I played this concerto four times, including the one for the matinee for youth, students and children. The atmosphere was impulsive and spontaneous, very grateful public.


AS: And what about your plans in Chopin Year?

RB: US, Poland, London, Paris, Tonhalle, tour in Germany and Japan. I invite all very warmly to my recitals and concertos.


AS: Thank you very much.
RB: Thank you.

Mar 15, 2010

Blechacz two Chopin CDs - Preludes and Concertos - in ranking (Poland)

In Poland, Rafał Blechacz's CD "Chopin The Piano Concertos" is ranked 17th and "Chopin Complete Preludes" 45th in sales ranking this week of all categories of music. Both have attained the double platinum status. It's rare, isn't it?

Olis' Official Sales List site




I'm not familiar with the other titles (I can recognize only a few; Garou←oh, he was singing at Vancouver Olympic's opening, Michael Jackson, Sting....) but it looks rare to have classical music ranked high, two titles at the same time like Rafał Blechacz.

(Thanks to Dana for the list.)  

TV Arte re-air Blechacz recital March 18 (Europe)

TV Arte will broadcast again the program of Rafał Blechacz, recital & interview in Hamburg, on March 18 @ 6:00 am.

ADR.de, one of many websites for program announcement (German)


In Poland, CYFROWY POLSAT offers the TV Arte channel.
See TV Arte program page of CYFROWY POLSAT (Polish), "Rafał Blechacz gra Chopina" @ 6:00 a.m. under Czwartek.




The ADR.de describes Rafał Blechacz beautiully.

(Excerpt←rough English, sorry)

Religion, meditation, and pianistic concentrations are very close together for the young pianist; the Mazurkas op.17, Ballade No.3 in A flat major, and other masterpieces with the same sophistication as the Polonaise-Fantasie in A flat major.

Rafał Blechacz belongs to the kind of exceptional pianists who are easily overlooked. The faithful Catholic escapes the laws of commercial exploitation, which only he can. His concert appearances are rare, he spends the gained time in order to penetrate into the music notes, which he wants to bring to sound.

Blechacz sees music as a continuous river - each piece has its history before and after, musically like the life of a composer. Chopin's work lends itself particularly well for such an approach, and so it is no wonder that Blechacz's participation in the International Chopin Competition 2005 brought the music world to astonishment. The young pianist towered over the competition on an unprecedented degree - a second prize was not awarded only to illustrate the artistic distance.

The concert, which Rafał Blechacz gave in October last year in the Hamburg Laeiszhalle, shows a highly concentrated pianist who knows to make his audience very unsure:if he doesn’t play now, he likes being asked, as Blechacz was sitting in between a small eternity completely absorbed before the piano, until he finally struck the first note.

(End of excerpt)





** The fact that no 2nd prize was awarded in 2005 Chopin Competition to distance Blechacz from others is now famous story. But in his recent recital at Kennedy Center, Washington DC, when the organizer briefly introduced Rafał Blechacz before the recital began and touched upon this topic, it caused a stir among the audience, enhancing their readiness to attentively listen to his music.

When Rafał Blechacz became in a mode of complete meditation before starting to play Chopin's Polonaise Fantasie, listeners who'd got shaken with deep emotions that Blechacz brought by the tremendous exertion of Scherzo in B minor, were also absorbed in his eternity; and the absolute silence reigned the house.




Mar 14, 2010

Blechacz in Atlanta, March 6 (PAP news + photo)

From a recent article of PAP,

Original article from PAP (Polish)
(Acknowledgment: appreciation to Mr.R. Frąckowski for offering the news.)


United States: Triumphant recital tour of Rafał Blechacz in the U.S.

With the recitals at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (March 5), and Spivey Hall at Clayton State University in Atlanta, Georgia (March 6), Rafał Blechacz ended this year's tour of the United States - Roman Frąckowski sent a short report.

In both programs he presented Partita No. 1 by Bach, Mozart Sonata in k-570, "Pour le piano" by Debussy and three pieces by Chopin: Ballade No. 3 Op. 47, Scherzo No. 1 Op. 20 and Polonaise-Fantasie op. 61.

Because of the large number of people wishing to enter, additional rows of chairs were added in both halls. Already after the first piece the pianist was rewarded with a big applause and at the end with a standing ovation and loud cheers of "Bravo! Bravo! ". He thanked with two encores: Chopin’s Mazurka in A flat major, Op. 50 No. 2 and scherzo from Beethoven's Sonata No. 2.

In Durham academic community of Polonia of Duke University and University of North Carolina honored Rafał Blechacz with formal dinner, and in Atlanta a reception was organized in his honor by Friends of Spivey Hall Society, National Public Radio-Georgia, and Samuel C. Dixon, Artistic Director of Spivey Hall.

Roman Frąckowski, USA, 13 March 2010



Rafał Blechacz in conversation with Executive & Artistic Director Samuel C. Dixon, in Spivey Hall (backstage),
March 6, 2010, after the recital in Atlanta.



(Polish)
USA: Triumfalne tournee recitalowe Rafała Blechacza w USA
USA: Triumfalne tournee recitalowe Rafała Blechacza w USA Recitalami w Duke University w Durham w Północnej Carolinie (5 marca) i w Spivey Hall w Clayton State University w Atlancie, w stanie Georgia (6 marca) Rafał Blechacz zakończył swoje tegoroczne tournee po Stanach Zjednoczonych - krótką relację przysłał Roman Frąckowski.

W programie obu zaprezentował Partitę J.S. Bacha Nr 1, Sonatę Mozarta K-570, “Pour le piano” Debussyego oraz trzy utwory Chopina: Balladę Nr 3 Op. 47, Scherzo Nr 1 Op. 20 i Poloneza-Fantazje Op. 61.

Z powodu wielkiej liczby chętnych w każdej z sal dostawione zostały dodatkowe rzędy krzeseł. Już po pierwszym utworze pianista nagradzany był wielkim aplauzem a na koniec owacją na stojąco oraz głośnymi okrzykami “Brawo! Brawo!”. Dziękował dwoma bisami: Mazurkiem As-dur op. 50 nr 2 Chopina i Scherzem z Sonaty nr 2 Beethovena.

W Durham Polonia środowiska akademickiego Duke University i University of North Carolina uhonorowała Rafała Blechacza uroczystym obiadem, zaś w Atlancie recepcję na jego cześć zorganizowali Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Spivey Hall, National Public Radio-Georgia, oraz Samuel C. Dixon, dyrektor artystyczny Spivey Hall.

Roman Frąckowski, USA, 13 marca 2010 r.

Na zdjęciu: Rafał Blechacz w rozmowie z dyr. artystycznym Samuelem C. Dixonem, w Spivey Hall (backstage), 6 marca 2010, po recitalu w Atlancie.



Read Blechacz in Washington DC on Feb.27 (PAP news)





Website of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (U.S.) notifying new arrival at the Library.
Blechacz's CD "Chopin The Piano Concertos" comes first for the newly available titles in the Public Library.
(Info from Jan, in Holland. Thank you Jan for the vigilance♪for Blechacz news.) 




Mar 13, 2010

Photos on Feb. 22/Polish Radio Chopin Year website



This photo was offered by Beata , a fan of Rafał Blechacz in Poland to epitomize the inauguration of Chopin Birthday Week on Feb.22, 2010.
Beata and Dana attended the concert in Warsaw.
Beata composed this beautiful photo with "Picasso" photo collage.
Thanks a lot♪ 



Chopin Year Website provided by Polish Radio (podcast)
This interview by Blechacz with Adam Rozlach as of Feb.21 is the same as this one where Dana gave us a brief outline in English. (Thanks to Dana again♪)

Another interview by Blechacz with Anna Skulska on the same website (podcast)

The website of Polish Radio contains a lot of interesting contents.




Zygmunt's column, Warsaw




Also contributions from Beata.
Thank you thank you, Dziękuję bardzo♪ 



An interesting photo of Chopin from Dana.
Thanks a lot.




A pair of pot holders created by Konstancja, a fan in US, with photo collage
in commemoration of the Chopin Year
-- Christmas present from her
Thank you for the present but I cannot use it to hold a hot pan...

Mar 12, 2010

Review of Blechacz CD Chopin Concerti (France)

Review of Rafał Blechacz's CD "Chopin The Piano Concertos" written by Jean-Luc Caron,
posted on ResMusica.com on March 5.

Original review (French)






The Very Beautiful Chopin by Blechacz

Birthday forces us to know the news that Chopin is in full swing. And yet we cannot say that at no time Chopin has sunk into oblivion or indifference. Quite the contrary, the work of Frédéric Chopin attracts and fascinates the interpreters as many as the listeners from all latitudes. The recognized winner of the Chopin Competition, the young Pole Rafał Blechacz just recorded two celebrated piano concertos. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Polish conductor Jerzy Semkow are very careful to create a fabric of sound which is dense, ductile, even sensual, able to draw the perfect backdrop on which the pianist will speak.

Do not forget that the opus 11 and 21 belong to the compositions of the master's youth, when he lived in Poland and absorbed passionately ideas and lyrical and sentimental atmosphere. Vigorous, a little bit stiff when accelerating tempos, Blechacz dreamily reveals himself contemplative as soon as the mood dictates it. It is interesting to note that the protagonists of this beautiful engraving attempt no breakthrough towards any experiment which is eventually irrelevant to this historic and well-defined aesthetic context. This means if listening fascinates us by his elegance, his classicism, his silkiness, why not admit it without hesitation by his natural and intense romanticism at the same time. The languor and velvet alongside with the energetic outbursts, albeit not so often, the most beautiful effect. Emotions fit without excess in a context where the beautiful piano and beautiful sound must never be dismissed.

As such, and in a plethora of discography where we cannot forget the benefits of Krystian Zimerman (Polish Festival Orchestra, DG), Boris Berezowsky (Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, dir. John Nelson, Mirare) Tamas Vásáry (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, dir. Jerzy Semkov and Janos Kulka, DG) and Bramka Muselin (Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra, dir. Hans Muller-Kray, Musidisc), to mention only a few subjectively, the version of Rafał Blechacz appears in a very prominent place and will remain as one of the most memorable by his intrinsic charm and respect inspired by the Chopinesque spirit as well as text.


Blechacz CD"Chopin concertos" ranked 7th in weekly chart (US)

In U.S., Rafał Blechacz' CD "Chopin The Piano Concertos" is ranked 7th in this week's hit chart in Top Traditional Classical Albums category, according to Nielsen/SoundScan.

1. "Mendelssohn: Piano Trios," Emanuel Ax/Yo-Yo Ma/Itzhak Perlman. Sony Classical/Sony Masterworks.

2. "Harmony," The Priests. RCA Victor/RMG.

3. "Then Sings My Soul," Jenny Oaks Baker. Shadow Mountain

4. "Bach Cello Suites," Zuill Bailey. Telarc.

5. "Bach: Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince," Enesemble Sonnerie/Monica Huggett With Gonzalo X. Ruiz. Avie.

6. "The Priests," The Priests. RCA Victor/Sony BMG.

7. "Chopin: The Piano Concertos," Rafal Blechacz/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Semkow). DG/Universal Classics Group.

8. "Sacrificium," Cecilia Bartoli. Decca/Universal Classics Group.

9. "Argerich Plays Chopin," Martha Argerich. DG/Universal Classics Group.

10. "The Duets," Luciano Pavarotti. Decca/Universal Classics Group. 

Interview Blechacz gave in Hamburg, Oct. 2009 - Chopin, family, etc...

The interview that Rafał Blechacz gave for the TV program of documentary series "Maestro",
directed by Victor Grandits
which was aired on March 7, 2010 and will be re-aired on March 12 & 18 via TV ARTE.
The TV program was created at a time when Rafał Blechacz gave a recital at Laeiszhalle, Hamburg on October 6, 2009.

Blechacz spoke in English but in the TV program, it is partially voiced-over by German (or French, depending on markets) narration.

The ARTE TV Maesto website provides the German transcript of a part of the interview
and my friend Jan in Holland kindly translated it back to English.
I want to sincerely thank Jan for his kindness and generosity.


Original interview article from ARTE TV Maestro website (German)




Interview with Rafał Blechacz by Teresa Pieschacón.

The pianist Rafał Blechacz, born in 1985, is to be seen in a applauded concert on ARTE on Sunday 7 March 2010 at 19:15.

"I am looking for naturalness“

You seem so different from the hyperactive Chinese Sunnyboys….?
-- (Softly speaking) Do you really mean?

Yes. Could you imagine a career like that of Lang Lang with your rather quit personality?
-- Of course, this depends very much on the marketing. I am just beginning with my career. I may respond to your question with No. I need to retreat in order to develop my whole repertoire, and to reflect and to come to myself. 40 concerts per year is enough for me.

How did you grow up?
-- I come from Nakło, a small town with about 20.000 inhabitants, located in northern Poland- 30 km from Bydgoszcz and a hundred km from Warsaw. It is there very quiet and peaceful. My family and my piano were and are still my home and the music of Chopin. My father is an insurance agent, he plays the piano but not professionally, but he recognized in me the ear of absolute hearing. I listen to him while he played and I hummed the melody again, and gradually he discovered my musicality. But only after the Chopin competition 2005 for me it was really clear what should be my destiny.

You won in 2005. Do you, as a Pole, feel attracted to Chopin’s work?
-- Not only but also.

Chopin left his home land and went to France, what does home land mean to you?
-- (long pause)
Family is very important for me and my parents, who are very religious. Only in this environment I can develop myself artistically, I need that atmosphere. I love the forests, the food, the language, yes, it is my home land. And when I am traveling I miss my own piano and the language.

The star violinist Nigel Kennedy, who now lives in Krakow, said there is a great love for music around, there is a piano in every home. Is that so?
-- For us it was so, but I would not generalize. On the contrary, I experienced a very enthusiastic audience in London and also in Germany, the concert halls are full – in contrast to Poland.


A Russian pianist, composer explained to me the ranking for Russian music schools as follows: Bach is standing on top of all, but Chopin was the acid test: on the interpretation of his works the pianists are judged. And Mozart is something for the kids! What role is Chopin playing in the Polish education?

-- At the Arthur Rubinstein University of Bydgoszcz, where I started when I was 5 years old, we naturally also played Bach, but not less important was the romantic music of Chopin and Schumann. When I was eleven I was playing this for the first time. Mozart for children? How can you say so: Mozart is so difficult!

“One can achieve more with the ladies when you play Chopin rather than with Mozart”, Arthur Rubinstein would have said.
-- (Laughs) What shall I say? His interpretations of Chopin are very close to me: such a grandeur such an art. His interpretations were very important to me already in my childhood.

“Rubato” is a tempo instruction, not only in Chopin’s work, asking the artist to stretch or shorten the tones according to his own view. How do you develop a good balanced taste?
-- Personality, intuition and education are very important to express that good taste, just like learning about different styles and composers. If one uses too much rubato and idiosyncratic tempo changes then the performance could be kitsch and sentimental.

A problem of the interpretation of Chopin is unfortunately quite often: people seem to love him only as a tragic melancholic figure.
-- Yes. He could be quite different, he can be aggressive, powerful, male. Any type of kitsch was what he didn't like. I am looking for the genuineness, the truth, which is already very difficult. That is the only way I can touch the people in their hearts.

What else do you like to do?
-- When I am traveling I like to go to churches, because I love the organ music. And I love going to the movies.
Polanski’s “The Pianist” has impressed me very much. I even have an autograph of him.

(End of the interview article on the website)

-------------------------------------------------------------
Jan says:
"The comments of Rafał are very interesting.

Specially what he says about right interpretation of Mazurka Op.17 Nr 4. in order to reach the hearts of the people.
One can feel tention in the audience at the finish of his playing.
That is what he meant in the interview about "naturalness".

I love the music in this picture".

Jan was able to watch the TV program helped by his friend because his town's cable TV does not provide TV ARTE.
His impression was that "Rafał is more at ease and is mature as professional pianist".

I would like to thank Jan as well as his friend for sharing the feel.

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About Mazurka op.17-4,
".....He played only one encore, the Mazurka, Op. 17, No. 4,..... the moment faded, back to the wandering, and as the music limped into silence, there was a hush in the Terrace Theater that happens so rarely it sends a chill down the spine".
(review of recital in DC on Feb.27, by Philip Kennicott posted on Washington Post on March 1)


".....Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No. 4, was phenomenal. Blechacz gave unforgettable performance, his interpretation was mesmerizing: no one dared to applaud as the last note vanished in the air. There was still silence. Everyone tried to stay as long as possible in the Chopin’s World, brought to us by Rafał Blechacz with skill and sensitivity".
(review of Chopin Birthday Gala Concert on Feb.22, by Krzysztof Komarnicki posted on Chopin Institute website)


"Amazing situations happened to me several times at concerts in Japan, Germany and the Netherlands.
After playing four mazurkas of opus 17 by Chopin, no one applauded. Silence was absolute.
The audience was a kind of frozen. Something in hypnotized situation.
I had to wait quite a while before the next piece and withstand the silence.
Strong experience".
(Rafał Blechacz, interview with Wprost, Aug.2009)

Mar 8, 2010

From a French blog - deeply impressed by Blechacz

I found a review of the TV ARTE program of the documentary on Rafał Blechacz, aired on March 7,
posted on the blogsite of Le Monde, marianus.
I don't know who the author (Marianus?) is but he seems to be astounded and deeply moved by Blechacz's playing Chopin pieces.
Following is a sketchy English of his writing, which I drew mainly via machine-translation with a minimal proof-reading. (I didn't have enough time to mannually translate it by myself but I believe it is enough to let you know how deeply Blechacz inspired a French listener.)
Original review (French)



Just a moment: Rafał Blechacz
I do not talk too much: for an emotion, it was one of it, a stroke of heart as one says, but a stroke of heart to hurt you; the emotion is really so much strong. I just heard this Sunday night on Arte transmission of a concert in Hamburg by Rafal Blechacz: Ballade, Mazurkas (including the 4th, Opus 17) and the Polonaise-Fantaisie Opus 61. A startling discovery for me. I like Chopin, passionately, I hold it for a big, what always was not the opinion of everybody, and I like his interpreters, those that succeed in
translating his ardor, his generosity, and also his melancholy, the gentleness of his feelings so modestly mastered; nobility, distinction, sophistication, retained and big expressivity,… I found all it at Rafał Blechacz, entirely true, entirely audible, overwhelming.

The beauty of the hands and the sophistication of the playing: his measured heroism and his musical gentleness, every note on the piano like an enchantment, a fire of the illuminating sky without burning, a very ample and very flexible breathing, a lightness nearly steamy and the serene strength; I would say as a living intellect, association clearly discerned of the highest intelligence and the deepest sensitivity. With elegance, I repeat, a master and an amplitude of voice resounding like an infinity - serenely. Who did I have heard before? All. I will never forget, I was 17 years old, two concerts in Algiers, the first with Jose Iturbi, the second with Samson François. One didn't know anymore to what holy to vow themselves, one was mad, one compared of course, but that means 'to compare' when such poetic songs rise, that pull you to yourselves but to make you more human, with a taste of veracity until then unknown, a promise of eternity granted by this living, unique meeting and yet unforgettable, with the value.

I heard them, the Rubinstein’s, lately Benedetti-Michelangelli, Magaloff, Pollini, Argerich, Pogorelich, Zimmerman, Kissin who played the second concerto with whims too Russian to my taste, and lately Nelson Freire, the tamed nobility virile of a temperament and faithful…
And Rafał Blechacz came. In a word or two? The essence of the pianistic art, that is to say, naturally, Chopin.

I had the surprise to note that our young pianist - he is only 25 years old - was well present on Internet. Beautiful article on Wikipedia that gives in external ties the site of Rafał himself; one can consult it in English. And the a few short excerpts of registrations shot that You Tube proposes. It is great!

Watch the program from ARTE +7
(Program available only in Europe during the week starting March 7, ---not in Poland? I'm not for sure...
but the clip of first 30 seconds is viewable from anywhere.)