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Mar 6, 2012

Non plus ultra! - review on Blechacz's album Debussy Szymanowski (Poland)

Review written by Łukasz Kaczmarek on Muzyka 21.

For me, it is one of the most informative reviews about Blechacz's album Debussy Szymanowski. I feel very appreciative of .

Original review

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Rafał Blechacz’s latest album

Rafał Blechacz's latest album combines the music of Claude Debussy and Karol Szymanowski. Impressionism to Expressionism. The creation of pieces at the same period, but two completely different worlds. Stressing the sharp contrast enhancement was one of the main purposes of the artist.

Compositions included in the CD are those Blechacz has in his repertoire for many years. They are less played works of both artists. While Pour le piano, Estampes and L'Isle Joyeuse by Debussy lived to see a relatively large number of recordings, to mention only Gieseking, and Richter, Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor and the Piano Sonata in C minor op. 8 by Karol Szymanowski, except for the one recorded for Polish Radio by Jerzy Godziszewski, are generally not available in the global record industry. The greater applause for Rafał Blechacz, because it is through him that early, and the great works of Szymanowski will go to a wide range of music lovers.

At this point I wish to express an opinion, for which I take full responsibility: Karol Szymanowski's Piano Sonata is a masterpiece! In its first part of classic structure of sonata allegro, it’s possible to constitute essence of expressionism of those days; it’s extremely turbulent, vibrating, cumulating in a myriad of, often conflicting, emotions. This risky piece does not give respite for the performer or for the listener. Throughout sensations in the movement’s development (numerous dynamic changes), it requires constant concentrated attention. And how wild it is in Blechacz’s performance! The second part of the sonata has the rondo structure with extremely dramatic paragraph in the middle. By keeping beautiful melodic lines, Blechacz felicitously demonstrates Chopin’s lineage here. Part Three (Tempo di Minuetto), in turn, has plenty of irresistible charm. Blechacz plays it in a way to directly touch the heart. Crowning work of Fugue is in principle the final, fourth part of the Sonata. It is a powerful scale fugue of three voices, consisting of two themes. And what we have here is the harmonic mastery. I would like to draw your special attention to one moment: the chord in 612th bar, which after a series of breakneck octaves sounds like a revelation! The entire Fugue is a very impressive, brilliant final composition by young Szymanowski! The mastery work is further highlighted by the excellent interpretation of Rafał Blechacz. In the fourth part the artist has not only shown a real virtuosity, but also excellent spatial, polyphonic and structural thinking: here everything is perfectly balanced.


612th bar, deeply impressive
The second piece by Szymanowski, which was on the album is, corresponding to the final of Sonata, Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor. In the prelude one can clearly hear the Symphonia Concertante 4 (the 4th Symphony) by the composer. It is also a truly expressionist music, vibrating, strongly contrasted in terms of dynamics. It begins with pianissimo breaking off fortissimo. In the Fugue, in turn, Szymanowski signed on theme of great charm and delicacy, adding to it as an excellent counterpoint. It is also the music very contrasted in terms of dynamic (from ppp to fff), although much milder in expression. The entire complex emotional nature of the work, not having lost a formal discipline, was successfully captured by Rafał Blechacz. What seems to be particularly interesting is that the artist fully realizes what a composer has entered in the score, in principle, without going outside. So what is, in the case of Blechacz, his brilliant reading?

First of all Blechacz does not analyze, does not strip the work of prime factors, does not learn to work together with the listener, but he tells the listener, explains. This is the type of artist who has performed works in a well-designed and thought out manner. This is reflected both in the works less known by listeners, as early works by Szymanowski, as well as the music of Claude Debussy.

Here Blechacz sound is pure like water on the glass plate, and the same sounds do not come from the laboratory. Performance is very pianistic, without breaking with tradition; neither of the great traditions of performing works by Debussy, nor the traditions of the music of Debussy, which after all stems from Chopin, from Romanticism. In Pour le piano Blechacz’s sound is lucid, crystal clear and warm at the same time. His interpretation is somewhat modest, restrained and extremely mild, characterized by great sensitivity. Rafał Blechacz is listening to every sound that comes from his fingers ... The same can be said about his interpretation of L'Isle Joyeuse. The execution of the cycle Estampes provides further impressions. The pace of Pagodes is perfectly balanced: 5'00" (compared to the" condensed "Gieseking: 4'10" and analyzing Richter: 6'10 "). And how beautiful and soft trills are here! The Evening in Granada the artist emphasizes Habanera rhythm in a great way, which is sometimes quite sharp (left hand, from 7th bar). In turn, in the Gardens in the Rain, under the fingers of Blechacz, rain heavily beats: sixteenths are played short, and the piece sounds punctual and polyphonic at the same time. A very interesting concept and a very suggestive interpretation!

Non plus ultra! (=The very best, the utmost supremacy)

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