Rafał Blechacz | Auditorium Parco della Musica | 25 March, 2011

CD signed by Rafał Blechacz after concert
When Polish classical pianist Rafał Blechacz swept the board at Warsaw’s prestigious Chopin Prize in 2005, winning all of the top five awards, the judges made the decision not to give a second prize at all that year. The piano star made a very welcome return to the Santa Cecilia concert hall at the Auditorium Parco della Musica yesterday evening, playing not only music by Fredrick Chopin this time, but also allowing us to witness his prodigious talent in pieces by Mozart, Debussy – the sweepingly orchestral L'isle joyeuse was my personal favourite in the opening half of the recital – and Szymanowski.

Stepping out onto the stage to warm applause – applause that would get even warmer and eventually turn to rapturous cheers of bravo as the evening progressed - at first glance the 25-year-old Blechacz seems, if anything, even younger than his years; with his angelic looks and slight figure, he strikes a boyish pose, until of course, his hands touch the keys and that deceptive youthfulness is tempered by a maturity in his playing that leaves one quietly awestruck. With the second half of the programme entirely devoted to Chopin's dances, polonaises and mazurkas, this was predominantly an opportunity to appreciate Blechacz's extraordinary musical relationship with the work of the illustrious Polish composer.

After an utterly exquisite Chopin nocturne as a first encore was greeted with a standing ovation from most of the house, a spontaneous cheer of approval erupted at the pianist's offer to play what seemed to be an impromptu second encore – a scherzo from Beethoven – played with the perfectly focussed energy and clarity that had been the hallmarks of the evening as a whole. Unmissable - catch him if you can!

Making a personal appearance in the book shop at the Auditorium after the concert to meet and greet concert-goers and sign copies of his CDs, he was utterly charming, smiling and greeting each person individually and taking the time to exchange a few words (in impeccable English) with his admirers.

Full programme:
9 Variations on "Lison Dormait" by Dezede, K 264
L'isle joyeuse
Sonata No. 1, Op. 8
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Polonaise in C sharp minor, No. 1, Op. 26
Polonaise in E flat minor, No. 2, Op.26
Four Mazurkas, Op. 41
Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38
Unpublished C sharp minor nocturne
Scherzo from sonata in A major Op. 2, No. 2