Rafał Blechacz is a true talent, as his previous discs have shown.
I first came across him in 2005, on a CD
Accord disc of Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Szymanowski and Chopin.
More recently, he issued a superb disc for the ‘Yellow Label’,
an account of the Chopin
Préludes that can hold its own with any of the more famous
Prize at the 2005 Chopin Competition seems to have been justified.
He was also the first Polish pianist to win the competition
since Krystian Zimerman, some thirty years earlier. Here is
a daring disc – ‘daring’ in the sense that he takes absolutely
core repertoire and puts it right out there into the full-price
The first piece
we hear is Haydn’s grandest and boldest sonata, exploring the
extremes of gesture and dynamic. Blechacz’s playing is ever-stylish,
a trait emphasised by the DG team’s recording. The sound is
of the utmost clarity - the Producer was Arend Prohmann; Engineer,
Mark Buecker. Blechacz provides his own booklet note in addition
to the essay by Bryce Morrison. In it he makes explicit his
desire to focus attention on the connections between the Haydn
and the Beethoven. His playing, though, is what is truly special.
The held-breath intimacy of Haydn’s Adagio, in particular, is
remarkable, and in the forceful left-hand octaves at 3:35 we
can hear clearly Blechacz’s assertion that he ‘orchestrates’
as he plays; he hears sonorities or passages as played by instruments
of the orchestra. At that cited point it was orchestral cellos;
at the rapid arpeggio figuration at around 5:30 we hear the
solo cello of a string quartet. The finale sparkles, with exquisite
scalic work. Maybe Brendel is more attuned to Haydn’s quirkiness,
but Blechacz provides a sterling reading.
2/2 is an exact compositional contemporary of the Haydn heard
here. Blechacz captures the high spirits of the young Beethoven’s
sonata and its adventurous, questing nature. This is particularly
the case in the stormy development section, which put me in
mind of Backhaus, on his old Decca recording. Blechacz obviously
sees the Largo appassionato as some sort of processional,
with its onward tramp of left-hand staccato. He clearly enjoys
the shenanigans of Beethoven’s play in the Scherzo as much as
he does the suave charm of the finale. Most impressive, perhaps,
is the way Blechacz ends this movement. It dissipates beautifully,
but most importantly, satisfyingly, as if its disappearance
was the most natural thing in the world.
brilliant D major Sonata K311. Here, Blechacz truly sparkles.
His left-hand accompaniments in figurations normally construed
as banal make for fascinating listening in themselves, so even,
so perfectly dynamically judged are they. The slow movement
is a model lesson in gentle cantabile while the finale is full
of delicious extroversion. Blechacz’s notes refer to Mozart’s
love of opera in relation to this movement – not the first pianist
to do so, by any means: Tirimo made the link recently for his
Regis Mozart cycle.
booklet notes exhibit a trait that I come across more and more
in my reviewing and which I am sure is not the author’s fault
– he discusses the works in an order in which they do not appear
on the disc. In the present instance, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
- the last two composers reversed, therefore. Not too much of
a problem if there are only three works, but irritating nonetheless.
Do not let this put you off a purchase, however – this is an
important and thoroughly enjoyable disc. Tracking Blechacz’s
career successes is turning out to be an unalloyed joy.