Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz, born in 1985, swept all five top prizes at the Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 2005. Much-hyped in an age when hype is not enough to sell a new young classical artist, he seems to have the skills to deliver the goods. Here, in three well-trodden works from the Classical period, he offers fresh readings based on tremendous agility at the keyboard. In Mozart and Haydn, his is the approach of an Eastern European pianist trained in the Romantics. His playing is a bit like that of Evgeny Kissin in this repertory. In all three of the sonatas here, he has the fingers to run through scalar material very fast, with perfect smoothness, and he uses these skills to generate a light, playful approach. The tight chronological focus of the program works to his advantage; by programming a late Haydn sonata against an early Beethoven one, he brings you into the currents of influence from Haydn, Beethoven's teacher, that shaped Beethoven's early music. But unlike so many other artists who use a modern grand piano to push the Haydn Piano Sonata in E flat major, Hob. 16/52, in the direction of Beethoven, Blechacz takes the opposite approach. The block chords of his Haydn opening movement are light springboards for rapid passagework with all kinds of small humorous details, and the Beethoven seems to grow directly from this language. The development sections of his sonata-form movements have a lot of forward momentum, and the slow movements of all three works show a young pianist acquainted with the nearly lost art of a really charismatic cantabile. If there's a weakness it's the concluding Mozart Piano Sonata in D major, K. 284, where his light touch seems at odds with the sonic bigness of the opening movement. Mozart here was working with a new instrument, the fortepiano, that seemed to suddenly give him the capability to imitate orchestral textures, and Blechacz is so subtle that this quality is lost. This disc neverthless shows a developing young artist who is living up to the hype.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Keyboard Sonata in E flat major, H. 16/52|
|Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2|
|Piano Sonata No. 9 in D major, K. 311 (K. 284c)|