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Sep 2, 2012

What is French music? (CD review, Japan)

You are the happiest if you really enjoy it.
----What is French music?  Listening to Rafał Blechacz.----

by Hidekazu Yoshida
Record Geijutsu (music), April 2012

The author develops a music discourse beginning with how Blechacz's playing Debussy from his CD Debussy Szymanowski sounded to him.  Let me excerpt the beginning and a few parts of the essay where the author refers to Blechacz's performance, though the essay is not necessarily about Blechacz; it is about various recordings that he cherishes in his memory.  What is shown below is only 30 % of his writing.

Yoshida was a renowned music critic in Japan.  He passed away in May this year so this essay became the third from the last piece of the series by Yoshida for the monthly.  He was 98 years old.

*****
.....These days quite a few pianists who open up career by the Chopin Competition are very shrewd in technique but a bit different from my image of Chopinist.  But I  remember slightly that Blechacz had a touch of play in a way that allowed me to somehow recall Chopin. (←) I didn't remember of him for some time after that.  Recently one of my acquaintances recommended his new CD Debussy Szymanowski.....

.....Just hearing the opening bars of Prelude of Debussy, I had "Wow!" How can I describe it?  The beginning was - very articulate or spirited, or it was dashing.  And this distinctively clear-cut tone keeps all the way.  For the first time in my life, I've heard Debussy that is played so articulately.

Besides, the sound is beautiful.

His Debussy is very different from the performances by some French pianists whom I've got used to hearing. The exhilarating, dynamic music could be deriving from Scarlatti, growing, developing into Prokofiev, though this comparison is a bit exaggerated.   If I borrow terms of paintings, it is not like Monet or Renoir or other impressionist painters with soft tones covered by pale fogs.....  I should reflect on what I've heard so far.  Probably I've failed to meet a pianist of so distinctive an approach.



.....This Debussy by Blechacz is courageously apart from the young Debussy that we have been familiar with; his is a youthful, even gratifying Debussy.

When I heard several notes at the beginning, I was surprised and wondered if it was all right, and  when finished listening I felt like asking someone if the performance was not checked by the 'great', established teachers of National Conservatory in France......

.....(Estampes) was written a little later and the performance was more in line with the "common sense" so my heart didn't beat fast at first hearing.  And it prompted me to remember the performance of Beethoven's piano concerto No.3 by Annie Fischer that I wrote in previous installment........

.........Furtwängler was a great conductor but his Beethoven can't remain the paragon forever.  That's the way music is going.  It sounds a far-fetched argument, but on this occasion of listening to Blechacz's performing pieces by young Debussy, I felt like thinking about what is French music first time in years......
........

(End of excerpt)

*****
But let me quote the Gramophone's review when it selected Blechacz's CD as "Gramophone's Recording of the Month, May 2012".

Track 1: ‘Prélude’ from Pour le piano, 0’00”
Blechacz attacks this opening movement like few others – but exactly as Debussy instructed: non legato, assez animé et très rythmé.

*****
The quote of Gramophone reminded me of an interview by Blechacz:

" 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..."

*****

The crisp, articulate beginning of Prelude.

 

*****
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