By Aart van der Wal, for Opusklassiek.nl, November 2013,
Translated by Jan Zum Vörde
Original review on opusklassiek.nl (Dutch)
Rafal Blechacz (1985) began with piano lessons at age five. He was only eleven when he took part in various competitions in and outside Poland. His international breakthrough came in 2005, when he won all the prizes but had to forgive the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, not only the prize but also the highest prize in the categories concerto (op. 11), sonata, polonaise and mazurka (why not nocturne, I wonder). But perhaps the most striking was that the jury by the mouth of Piotr Paleczny felt that Blechacz terms of musicality as head and shoulders above all other participants reached out a second price could not be forgiven. Another juror, the Irish pianist John O'Connor, considered the only twenty Blechacz as one of the greatest artists he had ever met. When Deutsche Grammophon must then also have the ears pricked: end May 2006 Blechacz signed the record contract. This he followed in the footsteps of his great Polish colleague Krystian Zimerman, who in 1975 had brought. The Chopin Competition in his name.
On Sunday, November 10th as Blechacz is back in Amsterdam, the Master Pianists series of Marco Riaskoff. On the program: Mozart Sonata KV 311, Beethoven's Sonata op. 10 No. 3, Chopin Polonaises op. 40 No. 1 and 2, the Scherzo No. 3 and Szymanowski's First Sonata. It will undoubtedly be a memorable evening. Who can not wait that long, the performance of Blechacz admired in the Philharmonie in Haarlem on November 1. Blechacz belongs with his fellow Polish Piotr Anderszewski and Zimerman to the absolute world top. If you live in comparing the three: Anderszewski appears on April 10, 2014 in Amsterdam, Zimerman a month later, on June 15. Back to the performance of Blechacz in 'his' Chopin proves that deep musical understanding, imagination and technical mastery always the best ingredients for fascinating interpretations that even if they are long gone, still remain “simmering”. This is the performance of the master pianist who knows how to incarnate spectacularly the multiple dimensions and the expressive layering which this music is so rich of . He does so with a rich palette of timbres, or more tiny or just broader rubati, accelerandi, accentuation and rhythmically varied, extremely subtle pulsation. All this should be well thought are, which also produces the wonderful paradox of the unpredictable, free, almost improvisatory: there is the dominant impression of flexibility, the music moves in free dimensions, however, be governed by a conceptual way of thinking that continually directs this brilliant discourse.
Blechacz's Chopin is, according to the present recordings, consistent. By both the preludes and concertos as the polonaises there is the same artistic red running thread, the same connection which everything is realized down to the smallest detail. Blechacz never leaves his master and moves in a perfect creative dialogue with the score. There is a strong adventurous side to his playing, the will to continue the tradition to their own hand, but at the same time with the realization that the roots of this music and himself, as a Pole at heart, should play a dominant role. That's at least one aspect of his performances: they supply the tensions on an often very erratic route. On balance, this Chopin performance with its romantic, but perfectly natural performed contrasts between heavenly explorations and deeply lyrical effusions, where outwardly show is exchanged for empathy, makes a stunning impression, even after repeated listening,. Unfortunately this kind of performance, is rarely heard, where one goes through the knees and for you perhaps unconsciously longs for. All on the basis of a concept that is completely clear and shows a perfection, that you makes almost breathless. Complexity and simplicity go hand in hand with Blechacz, with the deeply heartfelt essence always within reach. Blechacz does not quote, but he narrates, a trait he shares with Horowitz and Rubinstein. And to consider that Blechacz is now only twenty-eight years old!
Who can compete with Blechacz in all those aspects? Not too far to go back in time and stay close to DG: Pollini (his views on particular Preludes remains a phenomenon and his EMI recording of the First Piano Concerto, when almost as young as Blechacz now , with Paul Kletzki at the helm is a true 'classic'), Martha Argerich from the very beginning until now (her debut CD for DG continues to fascinate), Zimerman the four Ballads, Stefan Askenase maybe. It is striking that the performance of Blechacz radiates the passion and spontaneity we also find with Martha Argerich. There are between her vision of Chopin and of Blechacz similarities rather than differences to designate (which also applies to the combination Argerich / Abbado and Blechacz / Semkow). In the contrary Zimerman differs on other hand. Who lays, for example the two Chopin concerts of Zimerman beside that of Blechacz. Zimerman, encounters with a less developed pregnant rhythmic foundation and the phrasing more thematic and less from the harmony thought: the fluid motion dominates. It is also evident that the Polish conductor Semkow, a veteran and tried and tested in this repertoire, for a less perfunctory orchestral accompaniment has secured over Carlo Maria Giulini; it is also fair to say that the RCO is just a better orchestra than the Los Angeles Philharmonic in those days. Which it is the duty of each conductor to invigorate colourfully the rather flat orchestral part. We may now are fortunate that the entire introductory orchestral exposition is played: previously that severely curtailed, even into the seventies.
And Lang Lang? There is an unbridgeable gap between his yawns to the sentimental, extrovert trending performance and how Blechacz conforms to the evolving drama and lyricism in music. Blechacz has also better, if you wish, a larger image of the musical structure, and that works out accordingly. Where Blechacz explores the heart, the core , Lang Lang stays - it is the consequence of his approach - on the outside. Blechacz takes the glove that fits immediately. With Lang Lang it is alternately a size too big or too small. Pregnant harmony changes never miss when he Blechacz plays towards them, they are so enlightened that the expressive character of the music reaches a higher dimension. That's not artificial or imposed, but is part of the natural flow that Blechacz constantly maintains. Stylistic similarities obtrude the grandiose performances of Youri Egorov, who died much too early. We are in the house of the poet. Blechacz 'Chopin is of the calibre to live with, and thus all is summarized. We are fortunate that 'his' sound was captured so beautifully by the DG engineers
DG has more young pianistic irons in the fire: the Canadian-Polish Jan Milosz Lisiecki, only eighteen, but here and been named one of the greatest piano talents and an English music magazine to 'Young Artist of the Year'. We will undoubtedly go see and hear! Closer to home are the brothers Jussen which may rejoice in the interest of the yellow label two talents that have been severely do speak of and which we will also pay attention. All in the right time, so to speak.
The review written in Dutch has been translated into English by Jan, a music fan in the Netherlands, one of "the passionate few" who deeply love Blechacz's interpretation. Many thanks to Jan ♫ ♫
Blechacz has another passionate fan in Rome. A few days ago, I noticed that a review of his appearance in Rome recital this May, written by Deborah who loves music and arts and writes about Blechacz's performances in Rome on her website in the past few years, has been quoted on his official website.
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