Refined elegance - Rafal Blechacz plays Mozart in Rome

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Kent Nagano

Santa Cecilia Hall, Auditorium Parco della Musica – 2 December 2013

Rafal Blechacz
Young Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz is certainly no stranger to the Santa Cecilia Hall at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome. Performing in May this year as part of the Chamber Music Season, he was back to delight the audience again yesterday evening, this time accompanied by the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, under the baton of guest conductor Kent Nagano, music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Bavarian State Opera.

I've had the pleasure of hearing Rafał Blechacz perform on several occasions over the last couple of years, and once again last night I was impressed not only by his sheer virtuosity, but also by the refined elegance, maturity of interpretation, and consummate poise in his playing. The unique peculiarities of Mozart's dramatic Piano Concerto No. 24 K 491 in C minor - one of only two concertos he composed in minor keys - turned the spotlight on the pianist in the cadenza in the first movement and the variations in the final. Mozart left us no written cadenzas for this concerto, and for this performance that of Mozart's pupil Johann Nepomuk Hummel was chosen. Greeted with long and sustained applause at the end of the concerto Blechacz was brought back out on stage for several curtain calls before accepting Nagano's invitation to play an encore. It's always a joy to hear him play Chopin and last night's Polonaise in C minor op. 40 was utter poetry.

The second half of the concert was entirely dedicated to Anton Bruckner's monumental masterpiece dedicated to Richard Wagner - Symphony No. 3 in D minor (also known as his “Wagner Symphony”). Only the third time in which this majestic tour-de-force has been performed by the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in its history (with its last outing over thirty years ago), Nagano kept the audience enthralled throughout this long, yet immensely rewarding symphony, with both orchestra and conductor warmly applauded after the finale.

Full programme:
Piano Concerto No 24 K491 in C minor
Polonaise in C minor op. 40
Symphony No 3 (Wagner Symphony) (1889 version)

Rafal Blechacz photo credit: