Rafal Blechacz - piano
'...one of the most finely honed pianists of his generation . . . The playing itself is full of flair and charm . . . [and] sparkles with wit and character. With brisk tempos he conveys both serious intent and huge enjoyment, giving the music shape and driving momentum . . . this is a young man's view of a young man's music. Do hear him.' BBC Music Magazine, London, December 2008
Rafal Blechacz was born in Naklo nad Notecia, Poland, on 30 June 1985. At the age of five he began to learn the piano at a local music centre and three years later enrolled at Bydgoszcz's Artur Rubinstein Music School. Between 1996 and 1999 he won the top awards at a number of Polish national piano competitions. He completed his studies at the Feliks Nowowiejski Music Academy in Bydgoszcz with Professor Katarzyna Popowa-Zydron in May 2007.
In 2002 Rafal Blechacz was awarded the second prize at the Artur Rubinstein International Competition for Young Pianists in Bydgoszcz. 2003 saw Rafal co-winner of the International Piano Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan and a year later he won first prize at the International Piano Competition in Morocco. In 2005 he went on to be awarded first prize at the 15th Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, and three special prizes: the Polish Radio Award for "Best Performance of the Mazurkas", the Polish Chopin Society Award for "Best Polonaise Performance", and the Warsaw Philharmonic Award for "Best Concerto Performance". Additionally, he wins the prize founded by Krystian Zimerman for "Best Sonata Performance".
2006 brought performances including Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 2 with the National Philharmonic Orchestra under Antoni Wit at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, and Chopin's First Piano Concerto with the Tonhalle Orchestra under David Zinman in Zurich and with the Radio Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra under Arild Remmereit at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In November he undertakes a 12-concert recital tour of Japan. Blechacz appears to great acclaim at Poland's Chopin Festival, Ruhr Piano Festival, Verbier and La Roque d'Antheron. In May Rafal Blechacz signs an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
In 2007 Rafal Blechacz performed Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 1 with the Russian National Orchestra led by Mikhail Pletnev on tour in Japan, with the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra in Poznan, Poland, and with the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen; Chopin's Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse on tour in Germany and in Toulouse. Recital tours of Poland, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands; further recitals at London's Wigmore Hall (broadcast by the BBC), at the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid and in Zaragoza, the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, at Vienna's Konzerthaus, in Ferrara, and in Vilnius, Lithuania. His solo debut recording of works by Chopin was very well received by the critics and reached "platinum" status in Poland; in France the music magazine Diapason elected it a Diapason Découverte [Diapason Discovery].
2008 saw Rafal performing Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 1 with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonia under Charles Dutoit; Chopin's Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Berne Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland and the New York Philharmonic under Marin Alsop in New York's Carnegie Hall; Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona at the city's Auditori. Recital tours of Italy, Switzerland and the USA; further recitals in Paris, Narbonne, Dortmund and Vancouver. Festival appearances at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo in the USA, Verbier, Heidelberg and Salzburg Festival. Blechacz's new recording of an album devoted to the Viennese Classics - Haydn's Sonata in E flat major, Mozart's Sonata K. 311 and Beethoven's Sonata op. 2 no. 2 - is released to great acclaim in the autumn.
2009 brought a tour of Japan performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 4 with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Marek Janowski and giving several solo recitals. Further concerts include the Beethoven Fourth Concerto with the Warsaw National Philharmonic in Warsaw and with the Orquesta de Valencia in Valencia and Castellon; Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia in Spain and with the Orchestre National de France in Paris; Chopin's First and Second Piano Concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Solo recitals at several venues in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Elysées) and London (Wigmore Hall). Blechacz's eagerly awaited orchestral recording debut of Chopin's Piano Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Jerzy Semkow is released in the autumn.
2010 plans included concerts performing Chopin's Piano Concertos nos. 1 and 2 with the Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, as well as with the Warsaw National Philharmonic, Kraków Philharmonic, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Wiener Symphoniker; recital tour of Japan and of the USA, including Washington's Kennedy Center and the United Nations in New York; European recitals including Geneva, Zurich, Brussels, Amsterdam, Milan, Paris, Chopin Festival in Nohant-Vic, Stuttgart and Poland.