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Mar 22, 2012

"Why this is so beautiful and wise", - review on Rafał Blechacz'sCDs (Germany)

From Die Zeit No.12, March 15, tentative English
(I posted image of original before)

German article (text)

This article is made available on-line later.  (March 26.)


Early mastery 

The pianist Rafał Blechacz can do more than marvelously playing Chopin
by Wolfram Goertz

The nation in a state of emergency. Breaking news from newspapers.  His home city is flagged, because the young man was summoned back to be crowned as Chopin's glorifier.  [The crown] long ago was regarded as lost to the virtuosos, masters of the refined technique, steed-charmers and seducers of the senses. But now music sounds all at once pure, totally authentic, the message of the music that is heard here comes from his heart, and it seems to many that Chopin himself speaks to the audience - bright, vivid, compelling and yet melancholic to the core.

In 2005, the young Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz won the Warsaw Chopin Competition, during which even janitors in Kraków, unemployed in Łódź and hostesses in Warsaw were curious about the outcome. In the end, it is about a patriotic heritage and about the greatest composer that the country has produced. Blechacz's great compatriot Krystian Zimerman won the Chopin Competition thirty years ago, since then candidates from all over the world won. Blechacz won over other contestants not just simply being convincing to the jury members; he almost took them over as his property. They awarded him the first prize and all four special prizes, and didn’t award any second prize to the humiliation of the entire participants. Conspicuously, clearly, forcefully the difference and distance can’t be unmarked. Krystian Zimerman immediately phoned to congratulate him, and when the two musicians met for the first time, they embraced each other.

Since then Blechacz is often active in his leading role as the most recent executor of Chopin's testament. He has conquered several continents, such a victory is a catapult, which lets one fly high. Nevertheless, the young man still retains amazing traction, has his origin, the modesty, always visible. Some critics now praise Blechacz for his discretion, his fundamental classical spirit. But the 26-year-old is now never settled academically. In reality, he is - and this is the spectacular - an unheard-of systematic person.


After the victory in Warsaw, Deutsche Grammophon took him under contract, to which he first gave a sensational recording of Chopin's Preludes. Then he put with sonatas by the Viennese classics, then took the two Concertos by Chopin with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, which was awarded the Annual Prize of the German music critics - and now he has recorded works for piano by Claude Debussy and Karol Szymanowski. So the pianist goes ahead with the expansion of combat zone.

For the Chopin Competition Blechacz, the boy from the Upper Silesian village Nakel (sic. Nakel or Nakło is not in Silesia) didn’t train particularly. It appeared to him like a toll-station, which one must necessarily go through on the way to being a soloist. With his teacher Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń he had prepared the competition pieces carefully, but his future was not conditional on a prize. In 2005, he was still in the middle of studying, and for one of the best young pianists in the world, a free style in public was at first a little unreal. It speaks itself much for his ground, that Blechacz was not megalomaniac.

From the first large honoraria he purchased for himself and his family (father, mother and sister), a beautiful house in the countryside, where he still lives and works, the number of concerts each year is limited to a maximum of 40 and he stubbornly refuses, within Europe too often to sit on the plane. He manages trips to concert venues with his father in the car together - and by now, a comparison with Krystian Zimerman is very obvious. He sometimes calls from a sense of solidarity, and then Zimerman says laconically:” I am here just 25 kilometers from Madrid in a traffic jam”. Zimerman also travels in the car to all concerts and always transports his own piano in the trailer. So far Blechacz is not yet so idiosyncratic. In the meantime, he fits nicely with the engagement, accepts the instruments on the site and represents his role as Chopinist.

If you listen closely to Blechacz, you’ll recognize a singular talent that makes the most accurate idea of the sound. It was already noticed on the CD with Chopin Preludes. His playing has early mastery, something distinguished, an almost uncanny accuracy of the narrative. By no measure Blechacz is a drawing-room darling or a flattering supplier of any poetry deeply immersed in sentiments. Rather, there prevails a wonderful clarity, a flying transparency as a CT scanner drives at enormous speed around the music and touches it on its relief and its internal structures.

Through the sixteenth notes in the left hand of the G major Prelude, a pianist is hardly ever so unpadded, brilliant and pedal-free rushing as Blechacz. Even Artur Rubinstein or Martha Argerich plays the rushing, pompous. Blechacz fulfills by his flaming clear piano. Elsewhere one has an impression that the young pianist already understands the deepest secrets. As he is in dark C-sharp minor middle section of the infamous Raindrop Prelude (which he plays completely unaffected and swiftly), the middle voice melody is shaded, from which you want to declare under oath that it never occurred to you – this is the piano playing of special class. And out of the repeated deep A flat in the final part of the A-flat major Prelude, he makes a gong regularly reverberating into the unsuspected lyric from another world, and the listener is wondering why this is so beautiful and wise, no other player does.

The current Debussy Szymanowski disc resists completely the suspicion in Blechacz, that he is an excellent specialist that grows up for the romanticism. Wisely, the young Pole has waived the known cycles and instead provides Pour le Piano and Estampes, and once again his pianistic interpretations astound, looking almost to the foundation of the pieces. As he suddenly hardens the weighing of Habanera in La Soirée dans Grenade and brings to the fore an urgent bitterness by coolly knocking chord chains, that is more than Impressionism, more refined than mistiness. Blechacz shows us Debussy as a novelist, whose nuances were colored with the pencil. For him, the Frenchman is a classic, not watercolorist.

Rafał Blechacz does not surround himself with allure, he is still a guarded child of decent people who however must cope slowly with the image of the exceptional pianist.  In interviews he wraps himself in restraint and says platitudes for that. However, he who plays Szymanowski's lunatic, expressive early C minor Sonate so existential, is not a pussyfooter, but already penetrates into the expression zones of the Modern Age. Of course, the Pole Szymanowski is a dear fellow, but Blechacz has less patriotic interest: It's just fascinating music for him, and he plays it well. In the meantime, he must of course play a lot of Chopin. This is the curse of the big prize.
(End of review)


*****
In Feb. 2010, Die Zeit on-line posted its interview with Blechacz.

Interview (German)
interviewer: Corina Kolbe

**A short excerpt of this interview that I post for this blog (English).
"Chopin is much more than a melancholic."


Corina Kolbe praised Blechacz's previous album "Chopin Piano Concertos" (see quote).

“The technical mastery, subtle distribution of tempo and poetic sensibility make listening to the recording a real treat”



*****
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