Preludia - Unofficial website for Rafal Blechacz

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Aug 26, 2012

Debussy' music and related arts are in boom now in Tokyo

From special exhibition "Debussy, Music and the Arts" now being held in a museum in Tokyo, in commemoration of his 150th birth year:


≪ Portrait d'Yvonne Lerolle en trois aspects ≫, 1897, by Maurice Denis, lent by the Musée d’Orsay.
Debussy dedicated a set of piano pieces "Images oubliées" to Yvonne Lerolle when he was 32 but it was left unpublished.  In later years, from this set, "Sarabande" was incorporated into another set "Pour le piano" and dedicated to her again after her marriage.


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Deutsche Grammophon FB
"Debussy's 150th anniversary - Another wonderful artist has released an album with works by the French composer this year...."

Nice drawings of concert in Menton

I happened to see this blog post written by an audience member of the concert in Menton, July 21 when Rafał Blechacz played Beethoven's piano concerto No.2.  Please see beautiful drawings of the concert which convey a nice atmosphere of the outdoor concert in southern France, as well as several pictures of the venue.

Aug 25, 2012

Review of Rafał Blechacz's CD Debussy Szymanowski (Japan)

Written by Tsutomu Nasuda for "Record Geijutsu (=music, arts)" April 2012 which gives Blechacz's CD Debussy Szymanowski the status of "specially selected disc".
Sorry for the delay in posting!!


Debussy and Szymanowski – with his pianism and personality, Blechacz admirably juxtaposed the two composers who apparently are not directly connected. “Pour le piano” is veiled with pure white lyricism, a different trait from dazzling illumination of impressionist oil paintings. How brilliant his finger flows are in marvelously rendering “Toccata” in a youthful and smart manner! In “Pagodes” of “Estampes”, the delicate execution of peripheral demisemiquavers is really characteristic of Blechacz. “Soiree dans Grenade” is refined and intelligent, not carried away by Latin passion or sensuality. Through the lively touch I sense that Blechacz genuinely enjoy performing it. This is also audible from the elastic and pliant touch in playing “Jardins sous la pluie”.

Courtesy TVP.pl











 All the pieces of Debussy are terrific but I think the highlight of this album is Szymanowski’s music. Furthermore, when I revisited Debussy’s pieces after going through Szymanowski’s, I was aware of what is interesting about Debussy anew that I missed at the first time. His “Prelude” in “Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor" marries sophisticated intelligence with a sprout of fantasy. The way he unobtrusively begins “Fugue” is fascinating, so is the aftertaste of the last notes sinking in deep thought. In “Sonata No. 1 in C minor op.8”, Blechacz holds us enchanted by his devoted, unpretentious expression. A superb performance of the second movement is refreshing and leaves the listeners profoundly impressed. The touch of tinkling of a bell in “Tempo di Minuetto” is charming and the interpretation of the final movement is elaborate, full of exquisite emotions. The outstanding performance makes us recognize the fascination of this piece anew; avant-garde and mystic; a delicate and transparent poetry, something in common with Debussy’s pieces in this album.
(End of review)

Nasuda wrote an essay for the program booklet of Blechacz's 2010 Japan tour

In 2009 Blechacz gave an interview to Nasuda.

**For Blechacz's next Japan tour (2013) flyer, Takaakira Aosawa has written a beautiful essay about Blechacz's music.  I'll post it when it is officially made available by the organizer.


Aug 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Claude Debussy

“Music Is the Silence Between the Notes” (Claude Debussy)

Rafał Blechacz plays "Sarabande" from "Pour le Piano" by Claude Debussy



Blechacz and Debussy

--You play "Passepied" from Debussy suite "Bergamasque" in such a fantastic way. You are able to build from this miniature true masterpiece; it has incredibly sublimate form and such a divine lightness, doesn't it?

"Debussy's music has a kind of special classical character, but what is also very important in case of Debussy is his extreme sensibility to the colours, which has a huge impact to the agogics of the piece. "Passepied" is a beautiful piece so is the entire "Bergamasque" suite. I love to play this suite. I recorded it on my first album before the competition, and I am almost sure that my next recordings will also include pieces from impressionist"
(Rafał Blechacz, in an interview with Polish Radio, July 2009).

(note) The interview took place just after he recorded his previous album "Chopin The Piano Concertos".


Japanese

Aug 19, 2012

Rafał Blechacz appeared in Milan twice in 2012

From DziennikPolski.eu, dated August 17, Rafał Blechacz in Milan, 2012.

"Rafał Blechacz, the undisputed winner of the International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 2005, enjoys great popularity in Italy".

Blechacz with his fans after recital @Milan Conservatory

The article describes Rafał Blechacz giving a recital in Milan Conservatory in March, followed by a gathering with the local Polish-Italian Cultural Circle in Lombardy (see photo).  It also mentions about his appearance at La Scala in Milan in May to play Beethoven's piano concerto No.4 with with Filarmonica della Scala, directed by Fabio Luisi, which was live broadcast by RAI 3 and in more than 200 movie theaters around the world.


Aug 16, 2012

Rafał Blechacz with "diabolic" skill

The way Rafał Blechacz plays a piece from Hanon in this video has been a subject of discussion among music lovers and amateur pianists in my country for the past few months.

See the interview video
Blechacz begins playing Hanon at 7:28.

He brings us up to another dimension even with a practice piece like this.
An amateur pianist said it's like a machine-gun.  She said that the evenness and fluency he plays with is the most excellent among the top-class pianists of the world.

I remember when I attended his concert overseas, before the doors opened, I heard his practicing scales from inside the hall, at ultra-super-high speed, with very powerful sound; the runs were unbelievably even and fluent.

And I remember an interview that Blechacz gave to Japanese magazine "MusicaNova, Oct. 2007".  The topic was how he practiced playing piano when he was a child.

(Excerpt)
At the age of six, he received a piano lesson from a teacher in the neighborhood for a year. He was enrolled in a primary school in Nakło and started attending Arthur Rubinstein Music School in Bydgoszcz. He studied under Jacek Polanski for six years.

“Prof. Polanski was really a great teacher. First, my lesson began with Bach: Preludes and Fugues. For classical works, I studied sonatas by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. As I recall, the first concerto I played was A-major of Bach (Bach cembalo concerto No. 4 BWV-1055).

In addition, to improve techniques, I worked on short but effective pieces a lot; e.g. Mendelssohn 6 Kinderstuche (Children’s pieces) op.72, etudes useful for motion ability of fingers and short pieces of Moszkowski, a Polish composer.”

He says that he worked on such piano tutors as Czerny, Clementi and even Hanon. From what I hear, there are few piano teachers in Germany and other countries who use Hanon recently. But Blechacz says that he starts day to day practice with Hanon for warm-up even today. His teacher gave him Chopin Etudes in addition to these tutors. For example, he was involved in Etudes F-minor of op.25-2, three Nocturnes of op.9 and two Nocturnes of op.32 in relatively earlier age.
(End of excerpt)

Read the whole interview











This is how his unbelievably robust skill was learned.  When I read reviews of his performances, I notice reviewers struggle to find right words to express how his technique is great. In addition to most commonly used adjectives such as brilliant, distinguished, miraculous,  even "diabolical"skill or "devilish"speed are used.

From the same magazine MusicaNova
Blechacz cherishes his teacher's words.

"If you play just at the assigned tempo, there will be some leftover unattended such as small mistakes or something that you can't express fully.  It is important for you to begin at a slower tempo in order to capture every note.  Once you practice at slower, middle and a little accelerated tempos, then try to play at the assigned tempo.  This approach is in fact the shortest way for you to attain your goal." (Jacek Polanski)


And Blechacz's remark from the interview video mentioned-above

"Of course, talent alone, or perfect hearing is not enough. You need systematic work, work day-to-day work, which allows you to master a piece immaculately, perfectly from technical aspect, and which later allows you to deal with what is most important in the interpretation, namely, music making; searching for different, interesting details, colors of sound, studying, and so on and so forth. .....Ignacy Jan Paderewski said that 90 percent of it is hard work, 6 percent is talent and 4 percent luck. Well, I'd probably agree with it.

Japanese

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Some of the images and literary works on this website remain the property of their owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Visitors are asked to contact the author of this website personally before quoting any material which is exclusive to www.blechaczinfo.com


Aug 14, 2012

Beethoven piano sonata No.7 in D major played by Rafał Blechacz

Beethoven's piano sonata No. 7 in D major op. 10-3, second movement "Largo e mesto" is one of the most impressive items related to Blechacz in my memory to date this year in writing this blog.  Here I'll post a part of the review of his recital at Sala della Filarmonica in Trento, on March 2, the first time that he played this piece in public if I remember correctly.  The original review is copyright-protected so this is only about the first half of the program: Bach and Beethoven.

Original review

Rafał Blechacz, the sublime soul of the piano…..the rare and valuable combination of rigor, thoughtfulness and passion of the extraordinary exponent of the entire piano repertoire, with a natural predilection for the illustrious countryman Fryderik Chopin enters into music, talking through Partita No.3 in A minor by Bach: Cartesian cleanliness, clarity of notes and phrasing, purity of form. Music for just music. The extraordinary technical ability of Blechacz makes listening to the complex polyphony of Bach simple, giving a clear and intelligible speech, in which the alternating voices follow faithfully the geometry of form, but from his inside springs out the rarefied expression, an almost dramaturgical lyricism that hovers in space and time. The fluid fingering, the freshness with which he redraws the most lyrical moment on the keyboard, the prodigious technique allow him to face with rigor the authors of the classical period, restoring them with surprising maturity and the Sonata Op. N3 10 of L.v. Beethoven becomes the revelation of the unseizable.

The Presto begins with the great passage in octaves, broken arpeggios, “hammered” chords put emphasis on the brilliant technique that prevails throughout the main theme. But the slow tempo Largo e mesto, one of the most intensely expressive pages of the entire sonata by Beethoven, falls on us as a poignant lyricism, impalpable, silent poetry of infinite and ungovernable pathos that finds its exact compositional yield in the most perfect construction. The tension dissolves with the short Menuetto. The Finale and Rondo is linked to the initial Tempo, a coloratura, ranging in medium and high registers and Blechacz renders choreography of gesture in the movement of sound.
(End of excerpt)
Trento Cathedral and Piazza Duomo











This is an excerpt from the recital review in Stuttgart on April 27.

The entire review

In Beethoven's Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op 10/3, it is above all in the Largo e mesto, where Blechacz’s singular talent is obvious. He brings the metaphysical dimension of this movement to this poignant expression throughout it, by renouncing the conventional espressivo maneuver, with which slow movements are usually charged. Blechacz trusts only the expression of the notes and text.

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And from the review of the recital at Salle Pleyel, on June 12.

The entire review

Hence this Bach colored, almost sensual, where every theoretical research in the writing becomes means of expression. An important partition in the works of Beethoven on this form, just preceding the Pathetique, Sonata No. 7 in D major op. 10 No. 3 is not the best known or most frequently played.  Very fine passage, moving in many places, especially his ample Largo, it is in variable mood, with moments of great nostalgia and other moments of lightness against almost peasante rhythms. Touching always miraculous, Blechacz slides into this conversation with diabolical skill, handling drama and seduction with the same ease, using in particular the complex architecture of the slow movement to touch us, as he will make it at the time in the Sonata in B Minor by Chopin.

Japanese

*****
Some of the images and literary works on this website remain the property of their owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Visitors are asked to contact the author of this website personally before quoting any material which is exclusive to www.blechaczinfo.com





Aug 8, 2012

Blechacz talks about colors of sounds, interpretations, ...(Interview in Germany)

Interview with Rafał Blechacz published by Fono Forum May, 2012, titled,

"To become famous is not my goal in life"

Let me post the introductory part of the interview.  To read the entire interview you need to purchase the magazine.

Original article on Fono Forum


(Quote)
Do you have a special relationship with Szymanowski and Debussy? 

Both composers are very close to me. Before the Chopin Competition I played Debussy a lot, which made me sensitive to sounds and shades of Chopin. In Szymanowski, the wonderful modulations and melodies fascinated me. Dynamic contrasts and harmonies inspired by Scriabin are typical – at the beginning of the Prelude for example, we cannot tell whether it is major or minor. To me both composers manifest themselves in sharp difference between impressionism and expressionism.


You admittedly play Szymanowski of the early Expressionist period emotionally, but it seems as if you never lose yourself in the music.

Maybe it’s because I see closeness to the classical form in his first piano sonata. The first movement is a type of Allegro having first and second themes which stand in contrast to each other. The third movement is a kind of minuet, and the fourth, a fugue. Even though this is not typical like in Bach, it reveals an absolutely polyphonic thinking. All these classical aspects affect my interpretation: sound, but also with a view to dynamic contrasts.


Your personality also plays a role at the same time?

Maybe. Each artist approaches his music differently. We often identify the timbre based on the intensity and volume. However dynamic contrasts are important indeed, but not everything. To the character of each work, I try to find a specific color, then this results in articulation and pedal use. Sometimes I want to create a silvery or golden sound, in other occasions it should be brilliant and intensive, then rather steely. In Debussy's "Pagodes" for example, it sounds silvery, feels like Chinese. On the third page, there are a few bars where the right hand plays melodies, while the left hand contributes only two notes syncopated. There the sound should be a little darker, softer, which makes a fine contrast to the rest.


Are you a synesthete?

Yes. In A major, for example, I see a kind of yellow, however D major is rather blue.
But sometimes I perceive completely different actual colors, which also depends on the music. And not every key has a certain color in my idea. It is more a kind of imagination.


Should the piano be sounding differently with Debussy from for example with Beethoven?

Absolutely. When I decided to record Debussy and Szymanowski, I was looking for a piano that allows me to create many shades and colors, plus it should have a large volume, strong bass and cantabile treble. I chose the one in Hamburg Laeiszhalle with which I had already played there my first recital. In addition, I spoke with the piano tuner about intonation: By pricking** the felt of the hammerheads he can make the sound softer. He was really good and could have everything prepared as I had imagined, so I could create beautiful colors even in pianissimo.


What qualities should a good Debussy player have?

I've already talked about the importance of color of sound. For example, there is an interesting part in "La soirée dans Grenade" from "Estampes", which is very typical of Debussy. The right hand plays a kind of melody, whose sound reminds me of morning dew, and the left-hand is accompaniment. My idea is that each voice has its own specific color. If the right hand plays drop, I want a silvery sound, which becomes gold at the end when the sun shines through. Of course there are a lot of virtuorities about Debussy, but it is different in nature than about Liszt. In "L'Isle Joyeuse," for example, all virtuosic parts should be veiled by silvery and golden mist.


What does this mean for the performing technique?

The articulation is of course different from Bach. For a dark sound the tension of fingers should not be so strong and their movement inert. Sometimes I press right and left pedals only by one-fifth, so the sound will be lighter.




Music journalists characterize your playing with such words as clear, transparent and noble. Is this all right or do you miss any other aspects?

It depends on the music. When I play Viennese classical music, that's all right, even partially to Chopin. But sometimes it is crucial to show the internal tension, in such pieces as Debussy's "La soirée dans Grenade". Poetry is also important in music. It depends on the character of the pieces.


In an interview with "Zeit online" you have made it clear that you do not like controversial interpretations.

This is in fact no way I would like to follow. Being controversial to me means that I cannot think of the composer, but only of my ideas, and I’m not so careful of the piece. That is a dangerous way.


On the other hand, there are stories of pianist, genius eccentrics like Glenn Gould.

A key to individual interpretation is to respect the composer's work. And even if I follow all the intentions of the composer, it is still possible to show my ideas freely in the interpretation. I think one can connect the personality of the composer and his own. There is no need of struggle between composers and artists.


What do you think of his own version, created by Vladimir Horowitz of Rachmaninov's second piano sonata?

Do you like it?

It is certainly interesting.

It is very difficult to explain what the correct way of interpretation is. I have some experience attending concerts of other artists. When they began to play, I initially thought that I would play differently. But as I listened longer, I suddenly realized that I liked their interpretation. It is strange, but if the artist has a strong personality, we accept his ideas, if perhaps not always, all of them. If it is very controversial, it is difficult to accept in my opinion, for example Glenn Gould's Mozart. But his Bach?

... His interpretation of the "Goldberg Variations" I think that's wonderful.

So do I.  And of course it depends also on the moment in which an interpretation is presented. In concert, it is unrepeatable, however, if we listen to the CD, it can sometimes be difficult.
(Unquote)

*****
The last part of Blechacz's remark reminded me of the article about the thesis for the Master's degree he wrote on graduating from Music Academy in Bydgoszcz in 2007.  The subject of the thesis was: The specificity of artistic performance in terms of competition, stage and recording, with the examples of Blechacz, Glenn Gould and Krystian Zimerman.


*****
The beginning of Prelude by Szymanowski.




Japanese



Aug 1, 2012

A review from La Roque d'Antheron (France)

From Le Monde as of July 25, a review of Rafał Blechacz's recital at La Roque d'Antheron (July 23).

Original review


(Excerpt)

The Pole Rafał Blechacz plays Chopin a la Polonaise

Rafał Blechacz arrived on the stage as if he were a little late for an appointment. He barely lost time in bowing to the public and very quickly began an attack on Partita No. 3 in A minor BWV 827 by Bach. The “attack” is not an appropriate word: the piano by Rafał Blechacz, while incisive it may be, is not a predator of keyboard. This is a piano that cultivates a touch of harpsichord in Bach, a fluidity a la drypoint, a flush velvet. His speech is precise and refined. He creates links between strong harmonic presence and the stretched threads of melodies. An art of polyphonic canvas.

.....He has been above all regularly programmed in major halls of France, after outperforming in 2005 at age of 20 at the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw (the 15th of the event), which decided careers of Maurizio Pollini (1960) or Martha Argerich (1965).

A side story delineated.

Sonata No. 7, op. 10, No. 3 by Beethoven is not often played, far from it. With its Mozart-like air, his clear articulation, the inflections of "pre-Chopin style" of his "Largo e mesto", the neat "Menuetto" and the humor of his final "Rondo", it is ideal for the authorized fingers (fingers of oath) of Rafał Blechacz.

Ballade No. 1 op. 23, Polonaise op. 26 No. 1 and No. 2: Rafał Blechacz is to his country soon after the intermission. He plays Chopin as Poles understand: without mannerism or affectation, but without athletic achievement. Unfolding weights, measures, landscapes, intentions. A mosaic of chiseled colors, a succession of events which sometimes give the music a side story....
(End of excerpt)


**You can hear some fragments of his playing Bach Partita No.3 from his recital in Wels, Austria this spring.

**It looks like the review has been partially published and it requires registration for the full access to the article of Le Monde.


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Konzertdirektion Schmid reports on Blechacz's winning the ECHO Klassik 2012 on its monthly report.

"Rafał Blechacz receives the award in the category “Soloist recording of the year (20th/21st century) / piano” for his recording of Debussy and Szymanowski piano works. The album was released by Deutsche Grammophon in February of 2012. Reactions from the press have been impressive: “Suddenly music sounds completely pure again, wholly authentic; the message of the music comes from its innermost parts […]” (Die Zeit, March 15, 2012)."






Blechacz receiving ECHO Klassik 2012


Japanese