Szymanowski • Debussy
Piano Sonata Op 8, Prelude and Fugue, L’Isle joyeuse, Estampes, Pour le piano
Rafal Blechacz
Deutsche Grammophon 4779548

Compare and contrast: Blechacz pairs Debussy with Szymanowski.

Plenty of hype arrives with this release from young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz, but little detail. My Internet trawling reveals that he was born in 1985, and at the age of 20 won all five sections of the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. He so impressed the judges that they awarded no second prize. Blechacz has recorded three previous discs for Deutsche Grammophon, of Chopin Preludes and concertos, and sonatas by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Here he gives us a recital of early 20th-century French and Polish music.

In the accompanying note Blechacz sites Michelangeli as his idol in Debussy, but his playing strikes me as less soft-edged than that of the mighty Italian. There is a crispness to the Toccata from Pour le piano, and a bell-like ping to the pentatonic peals of Pagodes from the Estampes suite, that bring to mind his older Polish compatriot Krystian Zimermann. High praise indeed.

Blechacz’s fluidity and supreme dynamic control are astonishing, and he shows attention to fine detail. He can also produce a full tone, as in the radiant climax to L’Isle joyeuse, without it turning clangourous.

He is equally fine in the Szymanowski pieces, but I wish he had recorded the late Metopés or Masques instead, or a selection of the extraordinary Mazurkas. Szymanowski took a while to find his distinctive voice, and these derivative early works are not very compelling. Worth getting for the Debussy.

Copyright © Limelight Magazine. All rights reserved

This article appeared in the March, 2012 issue of Limelight Magazine.

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DEBUSSY, SZYMANOWSKI: Piano Works (Rafal Blechacz)
3.5 out of 5
Deutsche Grammophon
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