Well-seasoned Master ─ Piotr ANDERSZEWSKI
by CHIAO Yuan-pu
When it comes to music competitions, one in which Piotr ANDERSZEWSKI participated as long as 30 years ago is a topic of conversation to this day, but not because of the final rankings or winner.
At the age of just 21, he joined the Leeds Piano Competition in 1990, playing a classic of BEETHOVEN's later work, the Diabelli Variations. The audience and judges were stunned that he had chosen a strenuous, uningratiating piece for a competition, and even more so that he had played it so well. That easily brought him to the semifinals, where he did something no one would have ever expected. In the middle of WEBERN's Variations for Piano Op. 27, he became extremely dissatisfied with his performance and simply got up and left, in effect forfeiting.
At the time, he just felt that he was being honest. Since he had played brilliantly in the first two rounds, people focused on him despite his loss, pulling the limelight away from the winner and thus becoming the "unofficial" winner!
He sincerely explains, "It was really awkward for me; I would never have expected it to happen and felt quite confused. Because of what happened, I was invited to perform at concerts, but I didn't know how to handle it. I thought about not playing. But people eventually mature. The most important thing was that I still loved music. That's what helped me press on. It was my source of strength in the beginning and will be so to the end."
From his initial rise 30 years ago to his current status as a highly reputed pianist, he has indeed held on to that love for music. He has never sought fame or fortune and simply focused on meticulously doing his job, following convention in polishing his skill. He has not done very many recordings nor performs a wide variety at concerts, holding mainly to German, Austrian, and Eastern European work, but no matter what he plays, it always conquers and produces a lasting impression. He says, "I have just one method: endlessly torture myself with practice and think to get the ideas I need out of my head and into my work." His achievements are thus by no means luck. Every note he plays is the product of painstaking effort. Despite that, he also knows how to connect with the audience and is by no means full of himself. "Whenever I decide to learn a song, I have to first have ideas about it. But I don't want to just present my ideas; I want the listeners to be convinced of what I'm doing. It can't just be self-intoxication. There's only one way to accomplish that: I must force the execution of every detail and allow these ideas to manifest in each detail."
A lover of reading and film, he designs his music much like an author or director at work, using his own logic to produce overtones in the piece. Pieces to be played at this Weiwuying performance may be viewed as a summary of his whole life, as each has been assiduously tempered by him over the years. He will start with French Overture by BACH, who has been his main source of momentum over the past two decades. The piece is in his first album of work by BACH (1998). He not only is a student of composers and styles of different eras but has also thoroughly analyzed the harpsichord and fortepiano, the results of which he translates into contemporary piano. If you are there, you will certainly experience the excellence he has cultivated by doing so. Being both Polish and Hungarian, he has a special place in his heart for Eastern European composers. Polish composer Karol SZYMANOWSKI was also a remarkably skilled pianist who wrote a unique musical language for the instrument. Twenty Mazurkas Op. 50 contains a sense of both Polish culture and misty fantasy. It is a reproduction of a traditional classic through a contemporary vocabulary that listeners are sure to immediately fall in love with. ANDERSZEWSKI's album from the past of SZYMANOWSKI's work has won numerous major awards, and this challenge of new works is sure to shine just as brightly.
At the end of the concert, he will play BEETHOVEN's Piano Sonata No. 31, which he played in his first album (1996) and was the grand finale at his 2008 solo concert at Carnegie Hall, the recording of which has received wide acclaim. Famous for his performance of the Diabelli Variations, he has always been an ardent BEETHOVEN fan, especially the composer's later works. He says, "What first interested me about this song was the final fugue, especially the part with the inverted fugue theme. When all your energy is used up and you’re collapsing, dying, you obtain new life. It's really moving." It's a piece that you never get bored of playing or listening to. So how does he interpret the piece now, after having played it since the beginning of his career? We will just have to wait and see!
Another piece to look forward to is one from his first album, WEBERN's Variations for Piano, the piece that brought him fame as described above. It is a work of exquisite skill and care, especially in the second movement, which jumps around from the highest and lowest registers, along with tricky, unexplainable dynamics, earning it a reputation as one of the most vexing and difficult piano pieces. He did not finish it 30 years ago during his competition but is now touring the world with it, and the only way you will hear what is so spectacular about it is by being there in person. After all, this concert at Weiwuying is his first and only, so don't miss it!
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