When the director of the Chopin competition in Warsaw announced the final results of the event, Polish music fans held their breadth in anticipation. They had waited for this kind of news for three decades.
20 year old Rafal Blechacz has become the first Pole in three decades to win the world's most prestigious event of its kind. The last time a Pole won the Warsaw Competition was in 1975, when Krystian Zimerman captured First Prize and went on to a brilliant international career.
Blechacz is a third year student of the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz northern Poland. He so outclassed the remaining finalists that no second prize was awarded. He also won the special awards for the best interpretation of a mazurka, polonaise and concerto. Is the spectacular success in Warsaw going to change him?
"I'm going to remain Rafal Blechacz.... Chopin's music occupies a very special place in my life and my repertoire. I'm full of admiration for Chopin's genius and am extremely happy to be able to play his music..."
According to music critic Andrzej Sulek, Blechacz is already a mature pianist at the threshold of a major international career
"Rafal Blechacz is one of the most sensitive, most intelligent and sophisticated pianists of his generation I ever heard. He is very sensitive on the sound of the piano. He can produce many kinds of colour, dynamics. He's also able to create a very clear form, even of the big and most complicated pieces of Chopin and not only Chopin."
By winning the prestigious Chopin Competition, Rafal Blechacz has joined the list of such great pianists as Pollini, Ohlsohn, Argerich and his compatriot Krystian Zimerman - all of whom won the event in previous years. Polish music lovers and critics hope he'll follow in the footsteps of Zimerman.
"Comparing Rafal Blechacz with Krystian Zimerman is a very good comparison because it's the same kind, the same quality of talent. I think in some respects they are similar as artistic personalities. There is a kind of nobility in their playing, in their approach to music. They are also very intellectual in their approach to the piece and very responsible for the final result."
In addition to a gold medal and handsome cash awards, Blechacz has received numerous invitations to concerts. Cellist Michal Popel is confident that he'll be clever enough to plan his career carefully and avoid the traps awaiting any competition winner.
"I think he's a very wise and very intelligent as I listened to his playing and to what he said. I think he won't take too much. He said he still wants to study. I think there is no such danger for him."
Rafal Blechacz - a name to the kept in mind by all music lovers.
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