3 Mazurkas, Op.50
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat, Op.61
Rafal Blechacz (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 2 April, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz is a recent high-profile signing for Deutsche Grammophon, and this was his debut UK recital, let alone his first appearance in the Wigmore Hall (a lunchtime gig). A loose theme of musical ‘impressionism’ ran through the Debussy and Liszt choices, with the perhaps-inevitable Chopin selection to close.
Blechacz has already won the Warsaw Frederyck Chopin Piano Competition, and his authoritative performance of the Polonaise-Fantaisie gave several clues as to why. There was a real sense of occasion even in the long pause before the pianist raised his hands to play, and the broadly treated introduction made copious but effective use of the sustaining pedal. Blechacz then exhibited rapt concentration in the slow middle section, gathering considerable momentum for the final climax and an intense finish.
Of the Opus 50 Mazurkas, the first two short and melodic, the last of the three almost a fantasy. Blechacz successfully grasped the tricky structure of the larger third piece, giving appropriate punctuation to the main theme and succeeding in casting off the exuberance of the first and the deftly ornamented theme of the second.
Blechacz’s opening gambit, Estampes, was less successful. Whilst lightness of touch and sensitivity was evident in ‘Pagodes’, the whole felt too clean and rather clinical. The rain fell at quite a rate in ‘Jardins sous la pluie’, the technique admirable but the phrase-shaping not wholly convincing, the raindrops pelting with too much force.
Liszt fared altogether better, and Blechacz’s mastery of the demisemiquavers in La Leggierezza was most impressive, cascades of scales winding down from the heights. Likewise, Gnomenreigen was technically superb, the triplet rhythms whirling in the right-hand, while the rapidly oscillating figures of Waldesrauschen were successfully differentiated. In each, Blechacz shaped well, so that melodies always came to the fore, no matter how busy the texture.
It fell to Chopin to provide the encore – another Mazurka – by which time Blechacz appeared fully relaxed.