March 03, 2016
Piotr Anderszewski captured by 'Humans of New York' in a moment of contemplation
“I’m a pianist. I’m playing my last concert Thursday night. Then I’m taking a sabbatical," Piotr Anderszewski confided to the photographer who approached him on the street for the Humans of New York photo project. In an encounter that lasted only a few minutes, the Polish virtuoso, known for his perfectionism and carefully considered approach to music from Bach to Szymanowski, gave a touchingly honest and insightful account of his career and artistry.
Anderszewski explained his decision to step back from public performance and focus on recording and growing as an artist. "Some of my friends think I’m crazy to step away now, but I don’t want to become a two-hundred-concert-per-year performing machine. It requires too much efficiency. And the efficiency burns you out.
"There is a lot of pressure when you perform at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. People pay for those tickets and you must respect your audience... You don’t have time to stay in your dreams or ideas. You need to step back from the public eye so you have space to grow. I won’t say that taking time off makes you a ‘better’ musician, because I don’t like the word ‘better.’ It sounds competitive. But it does make you less of an automaton and more human. It’s like exploring a new continent. Time off is a space where you allow things to happen other than the known.
"Pleasing people is a huge drive," he added. "Art is a communication, and it’s not incompatible with your integrity to desire an audience. A public performance is a miracle. You never know who’s watching, but you feel a communion between yourself, the audience, and the composer who wrote the notes two hundred years ago.
"But fuck the notes. The notes are not important. They were the composer’s only means of communicating. The important thing is what’s between the notes and behind the notes. My job as a pianist is to interpret. Why did the composer put that note there? I need to understand the moment preceding the note. And when that happens-- when I can reach back two hundred years and connect to a composer’s humanity, even if I’m completely alone, it’s the same feeling of communion as when I perform in front of an audience."