Chopin Video of the Day: Neil Sedaka Plays Chopin, c. 1965

The crooner shows off his classical chops by playing the Fantaisie-Impromptu after stumping the panel on the game show I’ve Got A Secret…

Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Romanian pianist gives strong premiere of challenging Kernis work
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Minneapolis,MN,USA

Nicely-written review of Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa‘s Twin Cities recital…

The piano recital was hatched in the romantic era; the society that suckled it is long dead. Yet the institution still stirs, as evidenced by Mihaela Ursuleasa’s sterling recital Sunday at Macalester College — the culmination of the Frederic Chopin Society‘s 25th-anniversary season.

The center of interest was the world premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis‘ “Ballad(e) Out of the Blues: Superstar Étude No. 3,” commissioned for the occasion. Invoking Gershwin in its opening moments, the piece, which honors the memory of Kernis’ late father, is one of his characteristically complex negotiations with the musical past — a continuously absorbing “battle with history,” as the composer put it in a pre-concert talk…

In Ursuleasa’s Chopin group, preceding intermission, the two scherzos were more sharply characterized than the two ballades (which nonetheless resonated intriguingly with Kernis). The haunted euphoria of the B-flat minor Scherzo, in particular, was conveyed with startling intensity, although here and elsewhere a bit more rhythmic freedom would not have gone amiss.

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Review: Rafal Blechacz, Vancouver Chopin Society
Vancouver Sun – British Columbia, Canada

“A big jump into prominence for the Vancouver Chopin Society,” says the Canadian scribe, , adding “We were lucky to have heard this concert. Chopin needs him.”

From the wings of the Chan came the remarkable winner of the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, the 23-year-old Rafal Blechacz, who placed first in all five categories and was so superior to the other contestants that the judges decided not to award a second place, which is really saying something. This was Blechacz’s only Canadian stop on a current five-city first tour of North America.

A Pole, he seems to have found a way of restoring simplicity and emotional clarity to a birthright composer who is too often tortured out of recognition and made to seem more complicated than he really is, though the difficulties of playing him are often fearsome.

Blechacz found a way of making him sound natural in a way that reminded me of Christopher Columbus’s solution to making an egg stand on end: he just chipped it slightly. That doesn’t mean Blechacz cheated on the music in any way; he just made it look easy.

He started with a first half that was made up of Mozart, Debussy and Szymanowski. The other half was what the audience came to hear and is typical of these concerts in the series: Chopin.

[…]

The whole second half was given to the 24 preludes by Chopin. These small miracles, the shortest of them only about half a minute long, were described as “eagle’s feathers” by Schumann and one can’t speak too highly of them. Every one of them held you rapt under Blechacz’s spell. The 16th, which is already perilous for the right hand, was taken at an extreme speed and not a note was lost. The bass tones of the fourth rang out, dense with pure piano tone and in beautiful balance. The 14th was very, very dark and the shockingly dissonant second tolled its despair.

He made the whole set seem like a stroll through an art gallery, aphorisms that ranged from “a gleam of pure Chopin sunshine,” as a writer characterized one of them, to the darkest morbidity, and this modest young man, who looked surprised by the standing ovation and long cheers, played the whole program from memory.

He’s already booked four years in advance. We were lucky to have heard this concert. Chopin needs him.

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