Blechacz, the selected touch
The promising Polish pianist with sophisticated style plays tonight at the Festival of La Roque-d'Anthéron.
by Eric Dahan
In early June in Paris, Rafał Blechacz played this program of his recital at Salle Pleyel. Five years ago, his recording of Preludes, Op. 28 by Chopin impressed. His left hand in the Prelude No. 3 in G major, without exceeding the speed of the masters, was an evidence of his care for notable characterization. Blechacz seemed to have scrutinized the text in every corner, and deployed for each of the preludes arms of attacks, gradations of dynamics and nuances of light in an incontestable sophistication. The young man was not unknown to music lovers, since he won in October 2005, the first and second prize at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The prize is awarded every five years, which revealed once Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini. Some may have cried out the genius a little earlier, compared Blechacz to his compatriot Zimerman, crowned in Warsaw in 1975. After a CD of sonatas by Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, Blechacz recorded both of Chopin’s concertos with the Concertgebouw. Still a very nice record, but not reference news.
Conscientious. This year, Blechacz distinguished himself with an album of Debussy and Szymanowski, giving a measure of his talent and his limitations. He has a sense of color and characterization, and his sonority is beautiful and clear, but in his Debussy, one hears more intentions and a determination to show timbre than natural efflorescence and resonant colors. Touch is sometimes hard and dry, or rather lack of density when Blechacz plays pianissimo. In Szymanowski, he seems to have difficulty in articulating musical speech over a long period.
Born on June 30, 1985 in Nakło nad Notecią, Poland, Rafał Blechacz first became fascinated by the organ.
"We went to church every Sunday, and I learned the organ and I played it for the masses until I won my first piano competition at age of ten," he says. As for the piano, he went deepening it at the Music Academy in Bydgoszcz, a city where he won in 2002 the second prize in the Arthur Rubinstein Competition.
Medals. "As a child I had a dream: playing Mozart and Chopin in the whole world. Going to compete in Japan at the age of 18 motivated me even more," says he who two years later, swept in Warsaw; in addition to the gold and silver, three special awards: for the best performance of mazurka, polonaise and concerto.
Asked if he was influenced by pianists, and he answers:
"Yes, by Rubinstein for his very natural rubato that comes from the heart; by Michelangeli, who gave proof, in Beethoven, Scarlatti and Debussy's Preludes, of an ideal balance between intelligence and emotion, and finally by Paderewski, for his sound and his very natural phrasing. Among the living, I enjoyed meeting Maurizio Pollini and András Schiff. It is rewarding to be able to discuss with musicians of this level.”
If the practice of organ explains the characterization of voice, color, and sound levels that made the value of his recording of Préludes by Chopin, Blechacz gives a nuance:
"The polyphony is certainly intensified in late compositions by Chopin, because he played the Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach so much, but the most important thing is to have a good instrument! Before each recital, I speak with the tuner, about intonation, acoustics of the hall. For my latest CD, I was looking for a piano with lots of colors, to render right sounds of Debussy, and a big sound, to give full dimension to the sonata by Szymanowski. I finally found the ideal Steinway in Hamburg. "
Tonight, for his third visit to La Roque-d'Anthéron, Blechacz has chosen a program of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Szymanowski.
Asked about his preparation, he replied:
"Belief in God helps me in my art. I look for the time of the Mass by the Internet, even when I am in Japan. Otherwise, I do a lot of jogging and I avoid the plane, too dehumanizing. I prefer driving to go from one concert to another. I am very much interested in Husserl's phenomenology, and participate in seminars on the limits and freedom of musical interpretation. I think an artist must respect the composer's intentions and find a space that also allows him to express his own sensibility. Our performance is permanently changing, depending on our mood. But it is necessary to keep the composer’s style. Otherwise it’s as if composing by himself."