Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
Pour le piano
1. Prélude 3:48
2. Sarabande 4:11
3. Toccata 3:57
1. Pagodes 5:00
2. La Soirée dans Grenade /Wieczór w Grenadzie/ 4:12
3. Jardins sous la pluie /Ogrody w deszczu/ 3:36
4. L'Isle joyeuse /Radosna Wyspa/ 5:36
Karol Szymanowski (1882 - 1937)
Preludium i Fuga cis-moll
1. Präludium 2:37
2. Fuga a 4 voci 4:05
Sonata c- moll op.8
1. Allegro moderato 6:39
2. Adagio 5:04
3. Tempo di Minuetto 3:43
4. Finale: Introdukcja 2:26
RAFAŁ BLECHACZ piano
Recording: Hamburg-Harburg, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, 1/2011
Executive Producer: Christian Leins
Associate Producer: Matthias Spindler
Producer: Arend Prohmann
Recording Engineer (Tonmeister): Rainer Maillard
Piano Technician: Jan Höppner
The gifted young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz . . . demonstrates the range of his powers here . . . He's virtuosic on Debussy's "Pour le Piano", whisking us up and down the keyboard . . . his "Pagodes" is weightlessly evocative. There's an almost existential yearning about Szymanowski's "Prelude & Fugue in C sharp minor", while "Sonata in C minor" is complex and involving.
/ Andy Gill, Independent (London) / 17. February 2012
. . . .a magnificent new CD. . . [Szymanowski: Sonata]: it is a hugely confident work, interpreted by Blechacz in a way that brings out its ripe personal voice and responds to its dramatic breadth of architecture as well as to the powerful momentum of the fugal finale and to the poignant delicacy of the slow movement. The disc is worth having for the Szymanowski alone, but Blechacz's Debussy is also a joy of limpid colour and immaculately weighed articulation, encapsulating the character and imagery of the music with a masterly and imaginative touch.
/Norris, The Daily Telegraph (London) / 17. February 2012
. . . this pairing of Debussy and Szymanowski confirms Blechacz is much more than a one-trick pianist; he's an artist of imagination and perception, with a fabulous range of keyboard touch and colour . . . His performances of "Pour le Piano" and "Estampes" are brilliantly characterised, with wit and a clarity of articulation . . . The Syzmanowski works are equally revelatory . . . Blechacz manages to channel its great extremes of dynamic and texture into a single entity . . . again the clarity of the playing is exceptional, but so, too, is the intelligence shaping it. It's a remarkable disc.
/ Andrew Clements, The Guardian (London) / 29. February 2012
. . . he reveals himself as a patrician Debussian in the tradition of Cortot, Gieseking and Michelangeli, and an impassioned advocate for the music of . . . Karol Szymanowski. The programme is as expertly planned as it is fabulously played, juxtaposing the French composer's "Pour le piano suite", and its Bachian-titled pieces, Prélude, Sarabande, Toccata, with the Pole's Bach-inspired Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor. The climatic work is Szymanowski's youthful, ambitious C minor Sonata . . . and it would be hard to imagine a more persuasive or brilliantly played performance. Blechacz's Debussy is little short of miraculous, revelling in the luminous textures and tintinnabulating chinoiserie of "Pagodes" from Estampes, the Lisztian flourishes of "Jardins sous la pluie" and the Gallic sensuality of "La Soirée dans Grenade" and "L'Isle joyeuse". This is an unforgettable disc from one of the pianistic giants of our time.
/ Hugh Canning, The Times (London) / 11. March 2012
This is breathtaking . . . There is never any doubt that there is a personality shaping the music . . . [Debussy: Pour le piano]: Blechacz is firmly in control throughout this dazzling and absorbing pianistic discourse. "Pagodes", the opening piece of "Estampes", has atmospherically veiled colours, while Blechacz has no difficulty controlling the weather in an exhilarating "Jardins sous la pluie". All this is captured in sound that is excellent for CD . . . [Szymanowski]: Blechacz is a compelling advocate, by turns introverted an impassioned, building the unresolved climaxes to searing effect. This is exceptional playing. Blechacz paints with the keyboard without sacrificing any clarity.
/ Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. April 2012
. . . this finely characterised recital will surely place him centre stage once more. His Debussy is transparent, pure, yet not lacking in depth, driven with impetus and excitement . . . The real finds here [are the two early works by Karol Szymanowski] . . .
/ Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer (London) / 29. April 2012
. . . a most rewarding, artfully conceived [disc] . . . I love Blechacz's crisp articulation and lightly pedaled bustle in the outer movements of "Pour le piano" (an arresting, impetuous opening to the "Prélude" and wonderful "jeu perlé" in its final page) . . . [Szymanowski: Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor]: it is an attractive short work and beautifully played . . . fierce emotional engagement with the music . . . superior sound quality . . . [The Szymanowski Sonata] needs a pianist of Blechacz's high profile and stylistic authority to bring it to the forefront . . . full marks to DG for backing its young star . . .
/ Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone (London) / 01. May 2012
This 26-year-old pianist has a musical authority far beyond his years which emerges forcibly in his handling of three works by Debussy (including "L'Isle Joyeuse") and his fellow Pole Szymanowski. The latter's Sonata In C Minor is a remarkable display of shining harmony and modulation.
/ Paul Callan, Scottish Sunday Express / 18. May 2012
. . . a compelling new album . . . [Blechacz] seems to be on track to become a genuinely memorable pianist . . . [Szymanowski]: The sonata, a terrific 25-minute piece, was an ear-opening discovery for me and should be better known . . . [Blechacz nails its flamboyant opening Allegro] with ecstatic precision . . . The following Adagio is beautifully quilted with restrained emotion, giving way to a stormy midsection. A light, classically-tinged Minuet proves a surprising buffer to the imposing final movement which, after a foreboding introduction, segues into a virtuosic triple fugue. Blechacz plays it all with an uncanny combination of confidence and abandon. As in his previous Chopin recordings, the music pours out naturally, with unmannered dexterity . . . With clean and fluid articulation, Blechacz doesn't overplay the whole-tone harmonies woven into the suite Pour le piano. Blechacz pounces on the Prelude with uncommon verve . . . Here's the exotic Debussy, flavoring his music with Indonesian gamelan in "Pagodes" and with hints of smoke and castanets in "La Soirée dans Grenade." Refreshingly, this isn't heavily pedaled, overly perfumed Debussy. It's unforced and evocative . . . With this smartly programmed, brilliantly played document of the piano at the opening of the 20th century, Blechacz once again proves he's a musician living up to that awards sweep in Warsaw.
/ Tom Huizenga, NPR (Washington) / 26. September 2012
He fully conveys the deep Debussyan poetry of "Pour Le Piano", "Estampes", and "L'Isle Joyeuse" . . . This opens up new intellectual and poetic vistas for an enormously accomplished young pianist.
/ Jeff Simon, Buffalo News / 21. October 2012
Rafal Blechacz continues to build his DGG legacy with this recital . . . a selection unusual and audacious at once . . . [Blechacz] reveals a sensitivity to the harmonic and coloristic dynamics in this often elusive composer [Debussy] . . .
/ Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition / 03. December 2012
It is an amazing journey which highlights the author’s maturity, in particular the aptness and accuracy of his artistic intuition. This young pianist covers the new roads, as he put it, clear, transparent or coloured ‘impressionism’, taken from Debussy music and ‘expressionism’ more reserved and mysterious than his fellow countryman’s, Karol Szymanowski. (...) Rafał Blechacz reveals a different side of his interpreting. It can be heard in Claude Debussy’s Stamps, where the artist exposed an exotic and oriental evocation. The pianist is totally engaged, flexible and hit-tempered at times. He shows us the race of chasm, where a soul can be at risk. In his performance of Prelude Cis-minor, you can notice even more concerning sensitivity, where Szymanowski takes a journey to the very inside of the audience consciousness. Blechacz is eloquent and manages to convey thousands of blazing flames in his interpretation.
/ Carl Fisher, Classiquenews.com / 14 February, 2012
Only few pianists are able to convey the charm of Debussy’s sounds in the way Rafał Blechacz does. Smart sensitivity changes into an ideal symbiosis as the spiritual reflection and technique perfection of the play develop. His performance of the lyrical Tempo di Minuetto from the first piano sonata by Szymanowski is a revelation …
/ Andreas Kunz, Fono Forum (Euskirchen) /1 April, 2012./
Marvellous recordings … of the compositions by Szymanowski and Debussy played by Blechacz, reveal his approach full of reflection. (…) With a moderate use of pedals, Blechacz manages to introduce tone gradations to Estampes like a real impressionist painter.
Miscellaneous / Corina Kolbe, Concerti (Hamburg) / 8 September, 2013
. . . with this album his outstanding position among young pianists has reinforced … He does not need to fill his playing with masterly tricks … Technique poses no difficulty to this young Pole. The clarity and transparency of his interpretation are amazing indeed, so obvious … Additionally, there is such a uniquely beautiful sound of the piano … Szymanowski: Sonata C-minor: a revelation … Pathetic adagio of the piano Sonata belongs to the most clear and calm moments of this great album.
/ Werner Fritsch, Hessisch-Niedersächsische Allgemeine Zeitung (Kassel) / 17 February, 2012
Rafał Blechacz appears to be the most mature young piano star – his incredible maturity also reveals in the case of Debussy and Karol Szymanowski … The technique of his thin, spider-
like fingers is simply amazing. Clear, melodious sound filled with subtle colours seems to be simple … out of this world … Hardly ever does the composition "L'Isle joyeuse" glimmer so much at night. It is long since “Estampes” has been treated so seriously in musical terms. Great art without any coquetry and artificial impetus.
/ Kai Luehrs-Kaiser, Die Welt (Berlin) / 25 February, 2012
Even when playing such a difficult composition like "Pour le Piano", Blechacz perfectly and independently manages to combine virtuosity and an open picture of sound which has been astonishing the audience since his debut. In the quieter passages Blechacz charms with melancholic and dreamy tones … Rafał Blechacz does his best for this highly expressive music, between incredible gentleness and striking virtuosity – despite that his musical approach can be always heard … One may repeat again and again: Blechacz is only 27 years old and already one of the best.
/ Jens Lehmann, RBB-Inforadio (Potsdam) / 9 March, 2012
. . . music sounds clear, completely genuine, it is a message of music which resounds coming from its deepness … Those who can carefully listen to Blechacz, will notice his unique talent which relies in careful considering of each sound … There is so much perfect dignity in his play, almost unbelievable accuracy of the narrator. There is no exaggeration of exuberant emotions in any time. There is rather a dominating role of marvellous clarity, passing transparency … Blechacz realizes himself through his fiery-clear piano … one may feel that this young pianist can understand the darkest mysteries … a piano playing of exceptional level … once again we are impressed by his approach with so much consideration of music.
/ Wolfram Goertz, Die Zeit (Hamburg) / 25 March, 2012
It is such a momentum in Debussy and Szymanowski interpretations that [one should understand it as] the new quality in the development of Blechacz … a sophisticated finger technique … Rafał Blechacz does not only have a brilliant technique but also the sense of tone … In addition, he displays a good formal sense and a resolute phrasing … In this spiritual flexibility it seems that Rafał Blechacz has profoundly mastered the possibilities of the piano.
/ Jan Brachmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / 19 April, 2012
The grand piano artistry like in "Pour le piano" by Debussy is not superficial in his playing at all. His interpretations are far from a refined elegance whereas his play is filled with poetry, but without an artificial sentiment. It is clarity and loftiness that are displayed … nobody has ever heard playing the tones in Debussy’s "L'isle joyeuse" in such an enigmatic variety and clarity. Blechacz reaches the depth of the French music structures, in "Estampes" he pays our attention to the very details … this makes him the king of sound tones, the wizard of the piano keys … [Szymanowski]: He fills this music with emotionality and the sense of phrase forming …
/ Michael Dellith, Frankfurter Neue Presse / 28 April, 2012
. . . his sound is warm and rich in tones, the play is clear and highly poetic at the same time.
Rafał Blechacz is one of the best!
/ Bühne (Wien) / 1 May, 2012
. . . Blechacz offers incredibly convincing and clear interpretations of Debussy, absolutely without garrulous-passing sentimentality, but with a plain approach to and an accent on the structures and proportions … in such a fresh performance has Debussy music been not heard for long … [Szymanowski]: Blechacz feels like home here, you can feel how important Szymanowski is to him. Having such a gift there is no need to worry about the future of this pianist.
/ Werner Theurich, Spiegel online (Hamburg) / 5 May, 2012.
His play sounds with a pearly lightness and smartly sparing use of pedals. It is not just a superficial piano key acrobatics, but a virtuosity combined with sensitivity and intensification ... Szymanowski: The fact that Rafał Blechacz is fond of this composer can be observed in every sound … Prelude and Fuga cis-minor are performed with almost sacral loftiness and incredible clarity … given his all virtuosity his play is received as warm and electrifying at the same time … My recommendation: you must buy his CD and write down the dates of his concerts, it’s worthwhile indeed!
D. Riesenkönig, Operapoint (Cologne) / 1 July, 2012
With his crystally clear play and almost unlimited technique possibilities, Rafał Blechacz undeniably reminds young Krystian Zimerman … Szymanowski: Piano Sonata No. 1: Blechacz presents this early composition … with ardent energy and high instrumental clarity; apart from that, he is really good at the poetic moments while in the monumental Fuga he avoids an exaggerated pathos. In an equally balanced way the pianist plays prelude and Fuga cis-minor by Szymanowski and three subsequent compositions by Claude Debussy . . .
/ Felix Meyer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung / 10 August, 2012
His play is transparent and perfect, clear like a glacier … There is no false pathos. Especially well suits his clear, flawless style of playing Debussy’s "Pour le piano", "Estampes". Likewise the first dramatic Sonata by Karol Szymanowski becomes clear and convincing when performed by Blechacz.
/ Lars Wallerang, Westdeutsche Zeitung (Düsseldorf) / 2 December, 2012
… Debussy: absolutely clear, pearl-like playing, without any doubts, expressing a definitely luminous power. The first composition „Pour le Piano” is simply breathtaking … Sarabanda is charming … Toccata impresses with its sounding. Pogode and Estampes are enchanting due to masterful control of sounds … welcoming the audience almost fervently. One can imagine how much emotion there is in the way he emits accord sounding, in the passion of performance. Artistic beauty in the composition Rain Gardens Allows the audience to hear falling water. Two compositions by Szymanowski are a revelation. In the piano sonata, Op. 8, the artist shows us his amazing maturity. His unique craft and amazing technique let him easily avid a number of traps and difficulties. What a tapping in the closing part! The album confirms a meaningful position of the Polish pianist among other artists of his generation.
/ Bertrand Boissard, Diapason (Paris) / 1 April, 2012