Chopin Polonaises: Rafal Blechacz

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COMPOSERS: Chopin
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin: Polonaises
WORKS: Two Polonaises, Op. 26; Two Polonaises, Op. 40; Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44; Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53; Polonaise-Fantasie, Op. 61
PERFORMER: Rafal Blechacz
CATALOGUE NO: 4790928

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As a first-prize winner in Warsaw’s Chopin Competition, the famous contest that has a better track record than any other in identifying major talent, Rafa Blechacz (class of 2005) certainly has something to say about Chopin. Much of this new release is exhilarating – while some wall-to-wall recordings of the Polonaises can get a little wearying in their pomp and circumstance, Blechacz plays with freshness and verve. He understands instinctively how Chopin elevates the traditional Polish dance into a national statement, with a sound that is both proudly majestic and melancholy.

Displaying a brilliantly secure technique, the young Polish pianist is fully up to the challenges of these glittering pieces. He also feels the nostalgia and longing of the music, and hearing him play the Polonaises is like hearing an authentically Viennese performance of a waltz, with plenty of air in those idiomatic hesitations. The A flat Op. 53 is every bit as fiery as its ‘Heroic’ title suggests, while the haunting C minor work, Op. 40 No. 2, is full of restless spirit. So it is a pity that Blechacz seems overawed by the great Polonaise-Fantasy, Chopin’s last extended work for solo piano. True, it requires a higher degree of interpretative subjectivity than almost any other Chopin piece, yet Blechacz sounds as if he still needs to find his way through all its twists and turns.

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John Allison