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Feb 11, 2012

two interviews with Blechacz from Poland

"Popularity is a side-effect" authored by Kaśka Paluch, on T-mobile, Feb.6

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You cannot complain about the lack of interest from the media. For classical music in which most of your time should be devoted to perfecting technique, is fulfilling promotional duties difficult?

Certainly, such an event we have now, which means that a new album appears in the music market, requires some help from the media.  I have several interviews, now in Berlin and expect my promotional days. Of course, the label is the organizational window, but all proposals from media are presented to me, so the final shape of promotion belongs to me.

Apparently Krystian Zimerman gave you advice on relations with media?

He shared with me his experiences. However, we should take into consideration the fact that the situation in which he found himself after winning the Chopin Competition, took place 30 years ago. Since that time the world has changed a bit and there are other media, operated in a different manner. I need a little bit different experience. It seems to me that for the six years that have passed since my competition, I was able to obtain this experience.

The media interest, however, is a good sign. Your success in the competition prompted a larger group of people to begin to have interest in piano music.

Yes, it is very important phenomenon, especially among young people. Chopin Competition may be contributing to this, because it is one of the biggest musical events. The fact that it takes place only every five years is important, because if something is rare, its importance increases. The competition is seen as very prestigious, not only in Poland but all over the world. But apart from the competition itself, the compositions by Frederic Chopin can attract people towards this kind of music. It is the magnet that attracts many people.

Do you think if in Poland it’s a possible phenomenon, that in the United States or Japan - classical musicians are gaining celebrity status? Examples of Sophie Mutter and Joshua Bell show it’s possible in the west ..

I think that it is not so bad with us. Actually, a little more people could listen to this music, but it is a process that is deepening and going in the good direction. Much also depends on the presented material, on recorded discs and their promotion. If I had to expand path towards popularity, it was never the aim of my work. It's a side effect, in a positive sense, of the work that I put into preparing the track. If this is the result of a natural process, it is then very good. But if it becomes an objective of work of music, you may already have some doubts. Certainly, if the artist is popular, his music gets to a larger audience that this music deserves. In Japan and Germany a lot of young people take part in the concerts of classical music.

Well, yes, but it is often more a matter of promotion than talent. There are many musicians who are very capable, and do not have the back-end of publicity, so it is difficult for them to reach a wider audience. And vice versa - those who can do less, but better to promote, have a larger audience.

There are different personalities and it mainly depends on individual characteristics. There are artists who are not especially interested in promoting themselves and I also would be numbered among this group – I have acted just like this and I feel that it is a natural and consistent with my personality. The most important thing to do is what you are convinced. If I have seen great interest in music of Debussy or Szymanowski in concerts, I’m thinking about recording CDs with this repertoire to perpetuate it. In particular I am thinking about Szymanowski, whose music is relatively unknown in Europe. One reason for the realization of this album is the wish to bring Western audiences closer to Szymanowski's music.



Was the juxtaposition of Szymanowski and Debussy on a single disc dictated by a desire to show the similarities in the texture of the piano and style of both composers, or the opposite?

Rather, a sharp contrast between two different worlds. Of course it’s possible to choose such repertoire to play works by Szymanowski from his impressionist period, which actually alludes to the style of Debussy’s music. But here, the principle of contrast was selected, showing another musical planet - the world of expressionist and impressionist. The only condition which binds the two worlds is a virtuosic element. However this factor of these two composers is significantly different - in Szymanowski elements of octaves and chords dominate, while in Debussy, virtuosity is achieved by lighter means, with articulation and fingers.

In interpreting Debussy's works are you focused more on technical implementation than on emotional and sensual aspect of this painting of sound?

Especially in the works of Debussy, but in my work in general, I do not cut technical and musical layers. I think of the work as a whole, I tend to enter very deeply into its logic and message in order to best perform and experience its adventure. With the series "Estampes" it can be safely said that I experienced it for ten years and it’s still fascinating, and up till now the approach of interpretation has been changing. Of course, the technical layer is something absolutely fundamental for a work and not subject to discussion. It has to be mastered, but it must also be a carrier of emotion and message. I was once asked whether works of Szymanowski are harder than Debussy’s. Hard to say. If we analyze just only technical aspect, it could be, but if we begin to enter deeply into Debussy's music there are other difficulties. For example, in balancing chords, virtually every finger should have its own color. It is not only to emphasize a specific component, but also to distinguish it by a specific color. Very often, we identify color of a sound and its intensity. For me a reflection of the mood went very adequately through color. You cannot say that the music of Debussy is easier - there is simply different difficulty.

Each work, each species or even an era in music history requires separate studies, above all, understanding and sense of the work. That everyone should find a moment in the history of music that best suits his personality?

It is difficult to generalize. In the world of music there are artists and performers who specialize in classical music or baroque music, and also there are absolutely versatile pianists whose execution of each type and age are of great music. As I said, sensitivity and adventure with the work should come first. Because if I spend much time for the work, I already know a lot about it - how this music works for me, how it is received. Therefore, what is important for me is to perform only those works that I can feel. How can it be reached? Experiences on stage, presenting the work in different cities on different pianos, after working with them and after breaks to work on them - after taking all these steps, you can ask a question: Is it now the time that I go to the studio and record these works? It seems to me that this road is logical. In particular, the presentation of works to another person, because it should go to this end in this world, to share with others the beauty of music. The reactions from listeners to Szymanowski or Debussy, the contact is what we call - the energy acting between a musician and his audience, it is very important, crucial elements.

Do you feel you are such a versatile artist? Do you feel that - so to speak - you may sit on each piece until something is found with it? Or there could be a composer or an era that you never feel?

I have not tried all stylistic periods and works. (Laughs) First of all, when analyzing the entire course of my musical education, the first concert and experience with the audience, I see that I was and am focused on baroque and classical music. Besides, classical and impressionist trend has been always very close to me, which has allowed me to develop interpretations of Chopin, because this coloristic element, sensitivity to sound and polyphony are important for Chopin. Chopin also loved Johann Sebastian Bach and polyphonic approach is evident in him. Certainly a big impact on me was also organ music, my first fascination with music. It's these four or five styles that I try to present, and I feel I can do them well. And only when I am able to feel it really well. Because the audience immediately senses the false emotion.  When an artist is not entirely convinced of what he does, it is that his interpretations will not touch hearts and minds of people. If an artist comes on stage and feels that he presents his story, it also gives a different impression. Now I concentrate on the music of Szymanowski and in many recitals after the Chopin Competition, I present his music. Now I'm working also on a Violin Sonata and next year I will have the opportunity of a chamber music concert and I'm glad that not only I’ll approach music lovers with piano, but also other works by Karol Szymanowski

Baroque, classical and romantic music, which has lead melody and harmony, is in a sense easier in the reception of uneducated listeners. Unprepared for what happened in dodecaphonism or postmodernism. Is it not that the artist, extending the repertoire to post-dodecaphonism, atonal or punctualism, has a more difficult task of reaching the audience? Chopin should be loved by anyone who has a minimum sensitivity of the music, but Shostakovich and Prokofiev, not necessarily. In this case does this principle also work that if a musician really feels the work and presents it honestly, it's even easier for the unprepared audience to accept?

Dodecaphinic music is difficult music, I agree. Here, in fact, it’s necessary to letting the listeners prepared, outlining what is the technique for composition, etc... Sensitivity is obviously important, but on receipt of Chopin it also requires some knowledge, not just sensitivity. I am impressed with the text by Roman Ingarden, who writes that the role of a listener, who has the perception of the music experience, should be active. This is largely dependent on the sensitivity, but also some knowledge and attitudes. If the good will from listeners who perceive music is missing, a desire to experience something beautiful or something that may prove to be a metaphysical experience, it will not be a good effect. Music can also in some way, shape morality; if we treat some religious works such as Bach’s cantata, a transformation of personality of the listener could happen. A piece of music has such power, obvious connotations, evokes emotions, directs some reflection or action. The role of listeners who perceive the music is absolutely important. The vocation of artist is essential to keep this in mind – the artist performs for another human, for his heart, mind, and in a sense, for his life.

Would you agree with the theory that the music of the twentieth century is very elitist? For example in this case, the atonal works, decaying system of major-minor - which is still naturally understandable to every man - the reason begins to lead primacy, dominating emotions and impressions?

The rational, intellectual and emotional sphere is also always a conundrum and a challenge to show that in music, naturally balancing these elements. As for the music of the twentieth century, I think you need to wait. History verified how this situation will continue to play out. Johann Sebastian Bach's works were also forgotten, and later, thanks to for example Mendelssohn, situation began to change. It takes time to verify whether or not a music will find its place in human history.

A composition, which in a sense is the denial of the original idea of
​​the music, the most natural and direct idea of arts, is now normal? Maybe we should accept  that what is happening in today's music - not just professional, serious music- it's just a reflection of our reality, just as complex and abnormal?

There are various approaches. Zofia Lissa, for example, argues that understanding of the musical work is not possible without understanding its context, the time when the work was created, to experience the composer, etc. Surely, it enriches the reception of the work and its interpretations. For me, the entry in the work, its logic and message, is the most important and in some sense immeasurable. A music piece otherwise will affect every person and every undefined place in music work will fill his personality.  But you cannot ignore the fact that it actually - every piece of music is in some sense a reflection of reality in which they arose.
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"Chopin was not my first inspiration" authored by Maciej Karłowski, on empik.com

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Our man in the great pianistic world!  The winner of the Award of German Record Critics longed for by many. His exquisite interpretations of Frederic Chopin’s compositions introduced him to the great music stores in the world. Already constant loyalty and now, an album was given into the hands of listeners that contains the story of his early musical fascinations works of Claude Debussy and Szymanowski. On the occasion of latest album’s premier, released for the legendary Deutsche Grammophon, we publish an interview with Rafał Blechacz.


Your latest album will be released soon. Not for the first time; besides, it does not include Chopin repertoire, but this label of Chopin pianist really sticks to you. How do you endure such stereotyping?

Thanks to Chopin I realize my dream, playing music around the world, so I could hardly tolerate such connotations, how can I cut off from him. I never want to. But I must admit that it was not Chopin who was my first inspiration.

And who was?
I came to Chopin much later than to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or Haydn. The works by such composers as Debussy and Szymanowski also greatly helped me in the approach to the interpretation of romantic music including Chopin. After recording the album with the sonatas of the Viennese classics I decided to record an album with Debussy and Szymanowski, to show how much I owe to these composers.

Quite a inspirations are listed. All listed are related to classical music. Does a very young man sense any influence from other types of music on his artistic sensitivity?

Of course, other types of music come to me through the radio or television. But I must admit that everything in my life in some way revolves around classical music. Of course, not only literature of piano. There is a symphony and organ music, especially Johann Sebastian Bach and César Franck.

We know that you are interested in organ music, however, you did not admit to it in your professional career, do not sit behind the organ keyboard and give such recitals.

It's true, but I like it very much. It also enriches and helps me sometimes in the meaning of piano music. A lot can be learned from the organ works of Bach, and contacts with the polyphony often leads later to the discovery of this polyphony and in music of Chopin. It's very fascinating, but also a completely different musical adventure, which I like to give a sort of "after hours" when I sit down at the organ in a church in my village.

Let's go back to your new album. We already know that Debussy and Szymanowski are artists you’ve known for a long time. Among many pieces of music of various composers, what made you especially curious to the extent to decide now to confront them in one album?

There are two ways in my opinion to follow about how you can juxtapose these two composers. First way is an impressionistic trail, which is also very important for Szymanowski, especially in his second period of creativity. I decided to go to the second, where the main motive of constructing the recording was the principle of a very strong contrast. Debussy as an impressionist, Szymanowski as an expressionist. So two completely different musical planets.

Reaching for the piano music of Debussy, you probably take into account the fact that the journalistic community almost hastily compares you to the great Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, and also, as already happened now, compare you to Krystian Zimerman, because of your success in the Chopin Competition.

Let me say this that recordings Benedetti, Gieseking, Richter, Cortot are obviously part of the history of the execution of these works. For this there is nothing to discuss. For an attempt at this type of comparison, either. I, however, can say that I try to penetrate very deeply into the structure of work, in its nature, logic and meaning. I try to bring myself to a situation in which the composer himself is my biggest inspiration, not someone else's execution. But the fact remains that the stylistics of Benedetti’s playing is very close to me. I admire him for the natural balance between emotion and intellect. In my approach to the interpretation, the key is in close contact with the work. It's a kind of adventure with a work that sometimes takes a long time. In case of the cycle "Estampes", good few years. I also see clearly how my approach to this work has changed over time.

In what way?
I would describe it as a natural process of development in expressing my ideas of interpretation. Different halls, different pianos, different audiences, a lot of experiences. It all has an impact. Anyway, by the way let me say that I like the moment when the work matures inside of me, when the whole process can happen in their entirety. Only then I do feel ready to enter with it into the studio to realize the recording.

Well, now we have the recording. Your relationship with the legendary Deutsche Grammophon continues, and I congratulate you on that. As we know, it is a legendary company with great reputation and great history. You, in turn, are a young musician. Do you have the freedom to choose the music you want to record? Could there have been suggestions from the manufacturer?

So far I’ve never encountered the pressure on repertoire from Deutsche Grammophon. Of course we have a lot of talks about these things, and they are very open people. I'm glad, because in my view the artist in this process of creation should be free from such issues and focused on music.

Along with the album probably a promotional tour is planned. Can you can give us the details of concerts?

First of all Europe, in October I’ll go to the USA and Canada. The tours on both sides of the Atlantic were scheduled before the album of Debussy and Szymanowski was formed. The concert program will be in the first part, music of Bach and Beethoven, and in the second part, works of the composers I play on the latest album.

You mean that in the year of the premiere of the album with music by Szymanowski and the 130th anniversary of the birth of the composer, you don’t perform in Poland?

In the Chopin Year, I performed here five times, the same as in London since winning the competition. Taking into account the period of the last five years, in Poland, I played about thirty concerts. I think it is also time to build my position abroad - in Europe, America and Asia.
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2 comments:

  1. I am impressed with these interviews, espacially with the first one. The way in which Rafał develops as an artist is simply amazing. He absolutely deserves the gold or even platinum status after the first week :)
    Marzena

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    1. Indeed. His gem sound, of the compelling interpretation is the result of this sincere approach. He generously leads us all to the music world and composer's mind that otherwise we can never reach, especially in case of Szymanowski. How fortunate we are...!

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