UMS Staff Picks: pianist Rafal Blechacz selected by Susie Bozell Craig, Marketing and Corporate Partnerships Manager
By Stephanie NormannTweet
SN: Although a relatively young artist, Rafal Blechacz has already established himself as a rising star in the international classical music community. How has he, at only 25 years of age, made his mark in that community and around the world?
SBC: Although he’d won several major piano competitions already, when one wins the Chopin Competition it comes with incredible opportunities. Winning the Gold Medal and all individual prizes in 2005 opened the door for him to perform at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels among others. It also helped secure a five-year recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon which has so far resulted in three albums, including perhaps the best recording of Chopin’s Preludes I’ve ever come across.
SN: What “flavor” does he bring to his performance that distinguishes him as such an impressive talent?
SBC: What impresses me so much about Rafal is the incredibly musical maturity he possesses. In many ways, technical prowess is the easy part. But the ability to spin phrases with perfect balance and timing, to not take too many liberties while still drawing out poignancy, the achievement of an incredibly organic result…this takes true mastery. Artists can work for years and still not achieve this.
SN: What are you most looking forward to about his upcoming Ann Arbor performance?
SBC: Chopin is one of my favorite composers for the piano, and to hear a true artist perform his works, which are so romantic with their sense of longing, nostalgia, grief…I think it will be an incredibly emotional experience.
SN: What other events are on your “must see” list for the 10/11 season?
SBC: I’m looking forward to both of the Russian orchestras, the Mariinsky and St. Petersburg, with their blockbuster programs; also Susurrus as a totally unique and intimate experience; and the two Shakespeare plays with Propeller Theater Company, both of which are new to me.
SN: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
SBC: I’m a pretty active tennis player, and I before I started working at UMS I made a living as a flutist and still enjoy practicing and teaching. My husband and I are also looking forward to the birth of our first child late this fall.
SN: What have you been listening to on your iPod?
SBC: Well, yesterday I listened to Rachmaninoff’s second and third piano concertos in preparation for the season. I’m headed over to Lake Michigan next weekend and that always brings out summertime favorites like Jack Johnson and a quirky folk band from northern Michigan called Third Coast. It’s got a pretty wide array of artists to suit the occasion and mood.
Which pianist featured on the 10/11 season are you most looking forward to hearing?