Blechacz’s Chopin: Some Hits, Mostly Misses

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

The hit and miss qualities of Rafal Blechacz’s previous Chopin recordings are present throughout this 2013 release featuring the composer’s mature Polonaises. Blechacz convinces least when he aims for expressive effect, such as in his crude pounding out of Op. 26 No. 1’s unison measures, or his archly detached articulation of Op. 26 No. 2’s D-flat major theme. In the great F-sharp minor Op. 44 Polonaise, Blechacz’s rhythmic vivacity in the outer sections and gorgeously sung out phrasing in the central mazurka episode are offset by small instances of overpedaling and rushed transitions elsewhere.

Compared alongside the bland and cautious A-flat Polonaise on Blechacz’s debut solo CD, the pianist’s remake errs on the side of overcalculation: why all of the mincing little tempo changes in the introduction, or that weird tenuto that momentarily derails the momentum of the Trio’s galloping left-hand octaves? One cannot deny Blechacz’s blazing technical aplomb and nervous energy in the Polonaise-Fantasie, although the interpretation ultimately lacks harmonic tension and breathing room. Similar passagework in the C minor Op. 40 No. 1 Polonaise (the agitated right-hand double notes, for example) elicits more concentrated and shapely playing from Blechacz, while his spirited, swaggering way with the A major Op. 40 No. 1 is right on the money. Notwithstanding some fine moments, Blechacz’s Chopin Polonaises ultimately yield to Pollini and Rubinstein for consistency and stylistic surety.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Rubinstein (RCA); Pollini (DG)

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