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Jun 22, 2011

Review of Rafal Blechacz's recital at Salle Pleyel, June 7, 2011

Original review (French) posted on altamusica.com, titled "Piano vivant", 
written by Gérard Mannoni.

The Living Piano
Recital organized by Présentation Piano 4 étoiles (Piano****) by André Furno

His merit already established as part of the young generation on the prestigious international concert circuit, Rafał Blechacz, champion at age 20 of the Warsaw Chopin competition, is in constant evolution as an artist. This recital confirms his strength of character and charming personality, one that evolves from year to year. It is the piano full of life, not just virtuosic. Fascinating.

For many decades, the concerts organized by André Furno have had a preeminent place in the musical landscape. In addition to the overall quality of the invited interpreters, the fidelities that have been created from the outset between the organizer and those who were most often his discoveries allowed us to follow the birth and evolution of many leading careers, those of pianists and other instrumentalists among the greatest of these times.

Also, every time a new name appears on a program of Piano****, there is surely anticipation for the beginning of a new adventure, a fresh narrative between the artist and us. This narrative can have ups and downs over the years, generally a lot more ups than downs, but it always has an exciting aspect that could turn out emotional.


Rafał Blechacz, who is now almost 26 years old, has taken his inevitable place in the new wave that is replacing slowly the older glories that have disappeared or become exceedingly rare nowadays. The recent concert that he gave confirms in his playing all the qualities that had earned him the prize at Warsaw while also revealing some weaknesses that still exist.

Unlike many of his contemporaries from the East, Blechacz is not a pianist of force. He is an artist of intuition and sensitivity. His technique is obviously sumptuous as has long been the standard for anyone who wants to attempt his international career, but it is more oriented towards the investigation of colors, towards fluidity, towards the subtlety of textural changes than towards the fireworks favored by the current superstars of the keyboard.

We notice along the way that with few exceptions, it is characteristic of the guests of Piano****program. Music comes first. As for Blechacz, this was sensed as he played the second piece on the program, l’Isle joyeuse of Debussy. Abundance of coloristic moiré, cheerful sparkling; Blechacz gives all his values to the sublime piano script. We admire the presentation so intelligent and sensitive with the keyboard.

On the other hand, with Nine Variations on Lison Dormait by Mozart that had preceded, the listeners were left a little wanting. While it is certainly not Mozart’s masterpiece, there is never an indifferent note intended by this unique and totally brilliant composer. We recognize he has this question of weakness, that Blechacz hasn’t found there all the keys (clés) that could stem from these pages when they are less evident. It might come.

And it came, in fact, even still in the first part of the concert with the Sonata in C minor op. 8 of Szymanowski, the composer who is now drawn a little out from relative obscurity due to the recent production of his King Roger at the Paris Opera. One of the piano writings, ample, rich, already turning towards the nascent twentieth century, it nevertheless needs to be defended, not being equal to the sonatas of Chopin to which it is often compared without nevertheless being a musical by-product of Chopin as is sometimes said.

The talent of Blechacz allowed him to precisely find out what can render the better justice to this inspired and sophisticated music, thanks especially to his miraculous touch, always soft and simmering.

The second part was dedicated to Chopin with the Ballades no. 1 and 2, two Polonaises among the less played (C sharp minor and E flat minor, op.26) but of greater interest when they are approached with Blechacz’s freshness of spirit, enthusiasm, and profound authenticity and four Mazurkas.

It was not the last one that fascinates most, missing a bit of imagination in the choice of tempi, accents. However, the two ballades are addressed in the romantic spirit closely associated with Chopin: internal upheaval, deep sensitivity all on edge, and irresistibly torrid anguish alternating with delicate lulls in vein.

With the piano that is personal, always transforming, he is an artist who we feel has many aspects of personality to reveal.
(End of review)

If you have a trouble in seeing the French text, try this link.  

(Acknowledgment: Sandrine Georges gave me a great help in the translation.  With appreciation to her kindness and her devotion to the artist.)


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