Hamburg, Laeiszhalle

Blechacz’s approach to Bach’s Italian Concerto was thoroughly unromantic. It brought a freshness to the perhaps overplayed piece that was young, light, and spirited, with a beautiful, plaintive but unsentimental and sometimes prayerlike cantilena in the second movement. The Presto was unusually fast, which paradoxically seemed to make the structure of the music even clearer, imbuing it with such playfulness and joy that the concerto was Italian not only in its alteration of forte (tutti) and piano (solo) passages but also in its joie de vivre. No German strictness here, but sheer exuberance and happiness. Mozart’s late sonata was a fortuitous choice to follow Bach, as it frequently uses intricate contrapuntal techniques. Blechacz’s interpretation was again utterly clean and light, with a wonderful teasing quality in the third movement. While the second movement can sound quite songlike, Blechacz gave it a pensive quality that provided a glimpse of the maturity the young pianist has already achieved. This became fully apparent in the last two composers of the evening. Karol Szymanowsi, one of Poland’s eminent composers, completed his Variations in b flat minor – heard much too rarely – in 1903, when he was barely 20. A late romantic work with a memorable theme that is explored in vastly different ways in twelve variations, it allowed Blechacz to express a whole universe of emotions. Chopin’s third Ballade was full of drama, and in the mazurkas we realized how far the composer had moved from their rural origin, with the pianist giving them rhythmic twists that would have made the pieces a struggle to dance to. Instead, he interpreted them in all their artistic subtlety, full of nuances, from forceful without being heavy (no. 1) to pleading (no. 4). Blechacz finally revealed his astonishing maturity in Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie. Just as the entire recital was completely lacking in showmanship, so he never went for cheap effects in this late composition. Its elegiac quality could not have been more powerful in an interpretation that did not draw the listeners’ attention to the pianist’s dazzling technique but went straight for the work’s essence. Fittingly, the first encore was Chopin’s e- minor prelude.(…) Blechacz made us realize that it is a composition about death – a constant presence in Chopin’s life.

/MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews – 07.10.2009. Thomas K. Thornton/