Blah blah blah, everybody knows about Rafal's miraculous victory at the 2005 Chopin Competition XV. It's even advertised nicely here on the CD cover. Shoot me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure this CD was recorded BEFORE the Chopin Competition as a debut CD of sorts for the already on-the-rise Blechacz. It says here in the liner notes "Recorded at the Pomeranian Philharmonic Concert Hall, in Bydgoszcz, April 2-5, 2005." The Chopin Competition took place much later in the year.
I will not disguise how enamored I am with Blechacz. I have two posters of him and obsessively read "Preludia" (his unofficial fansite) for any and all updates about him.
This CD is Blechacz showing his claws: Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Szymanowski, and Chopin (with, surprisingly, the least emphasis put on Chopin - reverse foreshadowing?) all feature in this album. Blechacz shifts his style and "gimmicks" (not in a negative light - I mean, you wouldn't apply the same techniques to Bach as you would to Bartok) back and forth to hit all his bases.
Needless to say, everything - even those dastardly Liszt etudes - are played with the utmost clarity; a sort of sharpness in technique that is absolutely delightful. I can't speak much for structure and form and those more technical things for the more musically gifted, since I know none of that - I merely say that I feel a very general cohesiveness in his playing across pieces which come as sets, like the Schumann sonata and for the Szymanowski variations (less so, and not without reason, in that supremely dynamic piece).
Blechacz plays with an incredible *Restraint* (yes, with a capital R) - I like to say of him, "He doesn't have to use cheap tricks to say 'Hey, I'm the best.' And that's exactly what makes him the best." There's no Liberace, no Lang Lang (bless his heart, I know he's still lilghtyears ahead of me in all things music) in him. He plays without that cheap showmanship, relying solely on his brilliant musical insight. That's not to say that his playing is BORING or anything - it just means that he's never in-your-face, screaming fortissimo at you. There will never be cause for you to turn down your speakers in embarrassment for an inappropriate sforzando. When your Debussy soars _cantabile_ and you singlehandedly bring back Szymanowski from the dead (what with his recent Debussy + Szymanowski CD), you know, there's really -
I'm blabbing. To wrap this up, IF for nothing else, do buy this CD for the studio recording of the Polonaise in A-flat Major Op. 53 (Chopin). I personally listen to his competition recording of the same with greater fondness, because he plays with greater fire, but there's a rather audible mistake towards the end which I'm sure bothers some of the crazier fans like me. This studio recording of the polonaise is just as dynamic (though definitely not more so) as the competition recording. It remains the only version of the A-flat Polonaise (please don't start egging me; but I just can't listen to Horowitz wear out the piano action on his several versions, for example) which really MOVES me.
Keep an eye out for Blechacz. I should end by saying "buy his other disks while you can," but Blechacz is truly special to me - so, instead, I must ask you NOT to buy his recordings and NOT to buy tickets to his concerts -
Because that leaves more in stock for ME to buy. Bwa-ha-ha.