Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Concert review: Young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz dazzles
San Jose Mercury News – CA, USA

A Bay Area reviewer isn’t quite ready to hand the Chopin crown to the hot young Polish pianist….

His performance May 4 at Le Petit Trianon in San Jose, which concluded with the Preludes, the full two dozen, was very, very good: Blechacz has an awesome command of the keyboard, plays with a stunning ease.

But he also seems to realize – I’m projecting here – that he needs to transcend his mechanics, to plumb the depths. So, at least on Sunday, amid the stream of jaw-dropping technique, he kept making these stabs at introspection. They didn’t exactly seem premeditated; in fact, they were charming. But they didn’t reach their marks.

He needs seasoning, in other words. And it will be interesting to follow him the next few years, to see where his huge gifts and his intuition lead him. […]

After intermission came Chopin’s Preludes, exquisite and familiar.

In the first dozen, comprising Book I, Blechacz didn’t get past what we already know about them. For instance, No. 4, the famous E minor “Largo,” was all cliche: earnest melancholy.

But before beginning Book II, he drew out a handkerchief and wiped off the keys. It wasn’t meant as a symbolic gesture, yet, from that point on, his performance gained traction: pointillist bursts in No. 18, the F minor; anvil chords and brokenhearted lyricism in No. 20, the C minor; scary agitation in No. 22, the G minor.

No. 24 in D minor, the closer, ran out of drama; Blechacz seemed tired. But he recovered for the last encore, Moszkowski’s “La Jongleuse” (“The Lady Juggler”), a crazily difficult piece through which he flew with the greatest of ease. The amazing young man may as well have been pulling taffy.

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Magnetic Poles – UK

Another glowing review for a journey through modern Poland by Australian author Michael Moran, who “had no links with Poland, other than a death bed pledge to his uncle to try to understand the patriotic roots of Chopin’s music.”

When Moran escapes the crumbling school, the book is lifted on to another plane. By following the course of the Vistula – one of the last great natural rivers in Europe – and then criss-crossing the country during the first international car rally in generations, he begins to fill the absences in our knowledge. On the road he relates – for example — the history of Partition, when thousands of intellectuals were forced to walk to Siberia – an 18-month journey – where they were chained to wheelbarrows night and day and worked to death. He considers our debt to the 8,500 Polish airmen whose élan and tactics helped to win the Battle of Britain. He details the iniquity of the Katyn massacre and betrayal of the Warsaw Uprising. He celebrates Chopin and the “frisson of close Polish dancing”. His breadth of knowledge is profound, his views opinionated, his writing passionate and heart-felt. The result is the best contemporary travel book on Poland, reminiscent in its finest moments of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s masterful Time of Gifts

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Gilmore Festival performer Stephen Hough masterfully executes
Kalamazoo Gazette – – Kalamazoo,MI,USA

The British pianist (recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant) writes the notes, then plays the program, to memorable effect…

The printed program notes, written by Hough himself, explained the first half of the concert centered on “Variations,” the second on the Waltz. He opened with Mendelssohn’s “Variations Serieuses,” Op. 54, comprised of two dozen very different variations. Quickly evident were Hough’s incredible hands and touch. Master of pianissimo and presto, he also commanded double fortes and andante passages; meanwhile his octave runs were unfailingly prodigious. […]

Wed to his sensitive insights was extraordinary keyboard technique, evidenced further in the remainder of the program featuring Weber, Saint-Saens, Chabrier, Debussy and, fortunately for all, Chopin and Liszt.

Two familiar Chopin Waltzes –the C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, and the A-flat Major, Op. 34, No. 1 — were gorgeously played. Each note was given full attention, as though never heard before. In the A-flat Major waltz, Hough showed uncanny ability to sound different melodic lines, played by a single hand. The effect was astonishing.

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Recital shows pianist Ohlsson at top of his game
Akron Beacon Journal – Akron,OH,USA

Whenever Garrick Ohlsson plays, Chopin is never very far away. First line says it all: “Garrick Ohlsson makes a virtue of middle age.”

Continuing in the key of C-sharp minor, Ohlsson knocked out a thrillingly fast and accurate version of the Chopin Etude Op. 10, No. 4. It was a wild ride that could only make you smile.

”One more?” Ohlsson silently mouthed to someone at the front of the audience, grinning as he asked. He proceeded with the Chopin Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2. Here, he dazzled with the delicacy and lightness of his playing.

Oh, yes, there was more before the encores. […]

Finishing the first half with Chopin’s Sonata No. 3, Op. 58 was a move well calculated to get everyone buzzing with oohs and aahs. This was not the Chopin of a delicate aesthete but of a full-blooded romantic, with jaw-dropping fast runs and a galloping rhythmic drive in the finale.

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Ohlsson’s performance (above) also inspires a video posting on the blog below:

Chopin Prelude Op 45 Prelude No.16 Op.25 Garrick Ohlsson
By Cheryl and Janet Snell(Cheryl and Janet Snell)

Janet took our mom to see this pianist last night. He played three encores after a finger-crunching program. The Chopin was a sonata, not this Prelude, but you get the idea.
Scattered Light –