John Allison talks to Competition Juror Adam Harasiewicz about the tones and shades of the Chopin style.
John Allison: This (16th edition) competition has shown us again that there is no single Chopin style, but is there one Chopin sound?
Adam Harasiewicz: For Chopin you need a very special sound - it has to be soft and noble, and even the fortissimos need to be gentle. It has to be natural - that's what distinguishes real Chopin. And you have to give the impression that you're actually creating the music. You have to think about everything in advance and organize it, and then forget the organization and play with your heart. And of course you have to make a beautiful, singing sound. But that's not enough, and it has to be delivered with the right rubato, the imagination and fantasy. It's also very important to shade the intensity of the sound - as in a painter's palette.
JA: Your recordings make it seem as if you've devoted your life to one composer. To what extent is that true?
AH: Not really at all. I used to play a lot of Romantic music, and even Philips recorded my Brahms and Liszt. In recitals I also did Schumann, Scriabin, Albeniz, Prokofiev – but it's true that Chopin dominated. Even after all this time, Chopin always feels fresh and new to me. Recently for radio I re-recorded the third Sonata, and four Nocturnes, the third Scherzo, the third Ballade and the F sharp minor Polonaise. It will be released on CD in a few months' time, I think.
JA: E minor or F minor? In 1955, you won playing the E minor Concerto at the finals. Why did you choose that one, and which has produced the bigger number of winners?
AH: I don't know which has won more competitions, but either is a winner if you play it well enough. For me, I already had the F minor in my repertory, and I had studied it with my first teacher - by the way, she'd been an assistant to and a pupil of Ignacy Friedman, so I got fantastic direction in terms of sound and singing tone on the piano. Then when I came to Kraków to professor Drzewiecki, he said, well, you already play the F minor, so we'd better work on the E minor. He found that for a competition the E minor often worked better. But some people think that the second movement of F minor is easier when it comes to charming the public.
JA: This is your fourth time on the jury. Is there any difference this year?
AH: Maybe that there have been more very good pianists. At least, I think so…
Adam Harasiewicz interviewed by John Allison
This article comes from the current edition of the "Chopin Express" gazette, published by the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, in coooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and "Gramophone" magazine.
Other articles of interest from Chopin Express No. 19:
Chopin Could Do His Sums