In 2002, 17-year-old Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz won second prize in the Artur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The next year, he won first prize in the Fourth International Hamamatsu Piano Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan. The year after that he won the Grand Prix at the International Piano Competition in Rabat, Morocco. The year after that, however, Blechacz hit the quintfecta at the age of 20 by taking all five top prizes at the 15th International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw: first prizes in polonaise, mazurka, sonata, and concerto, plus grand prize overall.
Listening to these three discs of his four performances at the competition, one can readily understand why: the international jury recognized Blechacz as a natural-born Chopin player. He's not a note-perfect Chopin player -- there are slips and slides here and there -- but he is a nearly ideal Chopin player. As these performances reveal, Blechacz has technique to burn -- aside from the rare slips and slides, he has the supple fingers, the powerful forearms, and the agile feet to play anything Chopin's super virtuoso piano writing throws at him. More to the point, Blechacz has the ringing tone, the powerful left hand, the lyrical right hand, and the dancing sense of rhythm that seem uniquely designed to play Chopin. Best of all, for an only 20-year-old pianist, Blechacz has the heart and soul to play Chopin. There's a brightness in his polonaises, a bliss in his mazurkas, and a tragedy in his sonata that only natural-born Chopin players have. Ably supported by Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic, Blechacz concludes his prize-winning recital with an exquisite non-Chopin encore -- Debussy's ravishing Swiatlo Ksiezyca (aka, Clair de lune). Dux Recordings' live sound is a hard but honest.