”Sensational!” some shouted. “He’s got everything before him,” others spoke in admiration. On Saturday, in Salle Médran (it was raining that evening), a Pole, Rafał Blechacz, caused a sensation by his unexpected performance instead of Lang Lang. It seems that we have gained by this exchange. As opposed to the Chinese star, this young man, modest, elegant and slightly too serious, does not show exaggerated manners. A year ago he won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Rafał Blechacz has nothing of an adept imitator. He finds Chopin’s music very congruous with his personality. As it was the case with Krystian Zimerman, he creates a natural unity with this music. His way of leading the line, noble phrasing as well as the ability to lead the melody till the end yet without ingratiation set him apart. One is bewitched by Barcarole’s width of breath as well as rubato as second nature. One may prefer Chopin’s music in an even more concise version (Pollini in his last recordings of Nocturnes) but Rafał Blechacz shows such an intuitive rendition that we are continuously enchanted. In a playful Mazurka Op. 17 No. 1, nostalgic Mazurka Op. 17 No. 4, Polonaise in A-flat major Op. 53 that wins audience’s hearts the 21-year-old pianist shows various possibilities, and Deutsche Grammophon offered him a lucrative five-year contract—the first CD will come out next year.
Verbier, 24.07.2006 Julian Sykes