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Oct 2, 2012

His first contact with Debussy and Szymanowski, interview with Rafał Blechacz (Poland)

An interview article from Muzyka21, Feb. 2012

Original interview
Please scroll down to the middle of the page.

(Quote)
Rafał Blechacz: The colors of music by Debussy and Szymanowski 
Łukasz Kaczmarek


Another album by Rafał Blechacz was just released. This time solo works by Debussy and Szymanowski filled its program. Impressionism and Expressionism: a juxtaposition of these two very distinct styles of music determines the nature of the whole album. To show the sharp contrast was one of the pianist's artistic purposes. Most of the pieces by Debussy, which found themselves in the latest album, are included in the repertoire of Blechacz for about ten years. And at the same time, both the music of Debussy and Szymanowski, appeared in his discography. I’m remembering the artist's first album, recorded even before the memorable Chopin Competition in 2005.

With a question about that debut album, I began my interview with the pianist:

"It was totally my first album. I remember surely I recorded then Suite bergamasque by Debussy and Variations in B minor by Szymanowski. That was six years ago ... During this time, certainly in some way, my approach to these composers changed. This time I recorded other works, namely Pour le piano, Estampes and Island of Joy by Debussy and the great work: Sonata No.1 in C minor by Szymanowski. Therefore, it required a different approach in relation to that - from six years ago, to those works. It is not easy for me to say how much of a change it constitutes in the interpretation of works by Szymanowski and Debussy, because practically all the time I'm stuck in the process. It is rather a question to the audience, who cannot hear my interpretation so often, do not deal with my piano arts every day, so, for example, when they compare the record of six years ago to the current record, made after those significant experiences at concert halls, as well as of recording, I'm sure they may observe some changes. I think they are not so controversial changes; controversy in the interpretation, or, more broadly - in music, was never in my domain or something I would like to follow. Certainly, however, presenting certain works, especially those that I decide to record, in different places, in different venues, of different acoustics, with different instruments, makes it possible to gain from those experiences and develop a style. Of course, I am thinking of compositional style, but also while keeping the entire architecture by a particular author, presenting within the style your own ideas and musical interpretation. "

Speaking of style, his own vision of the music by Debussy and Szymanowski, Rafał Blechacz points to his great musical inspiration. In the case of Szymanowski - Jerzy Godziszewski is an artist who, more than a dozen years ago, recorded complete piano music of the Polish author, but also from whom a very young Blechacz had the opportunity to hear the above-mentioned repertoire many years ago. As for Debussy, the artist has identified three major models: creations by Michelangeli, Alfred Cortot and Walter Gieseking. I asked Rafał Blechacz about the very beginning of his musical adventures with works by Szymanowski and Debussy, as well as other artistic inspirations:

"Concerning Professor Godziszewski, actually his recital was my first contact with the music of Szymanowski. I remember that concert at the Music Academy in Bydgoszcz, during which he performed Metopes, Masks, and perhaps even the second Piano Sonata. It was a great event! It was also probably the period when the album was released with all of Szymanowski's piano pieces performed by Jerzy Godziszewski. I dealt with these interpretations in those days and studied the works of Szymanowski in that manner. From the very beginning I was very fascinated by this music, the harmony above all, sharp emotional contrasts and culminations. Of course, I also wanted to reach for the works by Szymanowski, then I tried some Preludes and Variations op. 3. Then I made the latter piece one of my repertoire, and in this way my adventure with Szymanowski began.

As for Debussy, I have a memory of a recital by Dominique Merlet when I was probably about thirteen or fourteen years old, during which he performed the cycle Estampes by Debussy which fascinated me very much. I knew performances of Debussy before, with the recordings, for example by Sviatoslav Richter. There is a record, released earlier by Deutsche Grammophon, where Richter plays a few selected Preludes by Debussy, exactly Estampes, Sonata by Scriabin and something else by Prokofiev. These are live recordings. Even then, it occurred to me that this trend of Debussy expanded more and more. It was then that I started to practice Estampes, Suite bergamasque, and a little later - Pour le piano. I must say that there are a lot of such recordings that inspire me. One example is a wonderful recording of Children's Corner by Debussy performed by Alfred Cortot. It is very important for me to have inspiration, as a reference point.

But an even more important issue is entering deep into reading a work and stay with it long alone. It is as if discovering it again and search in it for these things that may have not yet been discovered, may not have been so strongly emphasized. My goal is just to follow the trend, follow the music in such a way as to create an interpretation, which in a sense is outstanding, or different from those that we already know that is available. "

In order to further deepen the topic of inspiration, I also asked Rafał Blechacz about his non-musical influences:

"These days such inspiration to me is philosophy of music. This agenda has been very fascinating to me for a few years, more or less since middle school. I didn’t have then, of course, for obvious reasons - competitions and other concert duties - so much time to delve into it intensely. For the past three years, however, I participate in doctoral seminars at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, focusing primarily on those topics that in some way touch the music, the philosophy of music. As for specific inspirations, I’d show here texts of Roman Ingarden about identity of musical works, or Zofia Lissa, concerning closer sense of interpretation. The texts of artistic experience by Ingarden played a very important role in my life. I feel that they open up a new horizon and allow me to look in a slightly different way, with greater awareness, with greater understanding, with more theoretical and intellectual background, at pianistic arts, and at how a public concert should be. Everything, in a sense, will be found reflected later in the same interpretations. " (...)
(Unquote)

*****
One of Blechacz's fans in my country bought this February issue of Muzyka21 to read his interview.  She said that the original interview is longer of three pages.  The above on-line text is about a third of the whole interview.


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