February 24, 2017

Piotr Anderszewski's long-awaited new album 'Fantaisies' is out now

The Polish pianist explores his personal sense of the musical links between Mozart and Schumann.

The release of any recording by the pianist Piotr Anderszewski constitutes something of a special occasion. As the Scottish newspaper The Herald wrote: “In music as in life, Anderszewski is a man who takes his decision-making seriously. His recitals are intense and wonderful: he is a profound communicator, a meticulous craftsman, a deeply original interpreter. He infuses every gesture with tremendous care; no phrase is thrown away, no nuance without meaning. The process of putting together such acutely considered performances is painstaking and lengthy … which goes some way to explaining why his repertoire includes just a handful of core composers.”

Two of the composers closest to Anderszewski’s heart, Mozart and Schumann, are the focus of his new recital album, Fantaisies, recorded in Warsaw. “I can hear in the music of both composers a similarity in their processes of giving physical form to their inspirations,” he says. “The cruel resistance of the blank page feels, in both cases, inexistent, ignored. And therein lies an important, precious connection between Mozart and Schumann: an unobstructed directness to their music, in which the purity of intention remains intact … In the case of Mozart his inspiration, his knowledge of the instrument, his compositional technique, all seem to coexist in some perfect balance, and the achievement of that balance feels miraculously effortless. In the case of Schumann things are less even, less consistent; one feels a much more troubled soul behind his creations. But even in his more awkward pieces the sincerity of intention, the initial impulse is never compromised.”

The two Mozart pieces, the Fantasia in C minor K475 and the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor K457, date from 1784-85, a time when Mozart, nearing the age of 30, was enjoying great success in Vienna, but both are dark, intense works. The two Schumann pieces, the Fantasie in C major and the Theme and Variations in E flat known as the ‘Geistervariationen’ (Ghost Variations) were composed some 18 years apart. The former was written in 1836, and constitutes a passionate expression of both Schumann’s love for Clara Wieck and his anguish at being kept separated from her by her father. The latter dates from 1854 and was Schumann’s final composition, written two years after the suicide attempt that led to his confinement in an asylum. He believed that the work’s lyrical, deeply touching theme had been brought to him by an angel.

If Schumann is one of the composers who came to define the Romantic piano, Anderszewski (as he explained in an interview with Bavarian Radio) feels that in the music of Mozart, an exemplar of the Classical era, “there is nearly always a touch of the Romantic …” While Anderszewski does not feel that Mozart is a forward-looking composer like Beethoven, he still says that “I sometimes have the impression that the two centuries that followed Mozart are reflected in his works.”

The echoes of music from different eras were heard by the critic of the Tribune de Genève when Anderszewski performed the Schumann Fantasie in Switzerland in 2013. “The voices of Schumann are haunting. Anderszewski brings out all the imaginative forces in the Fantasie. Ghosts whispered between the notes … Beethoven and Brahms, but also Wagner and Mussorgsky … So many pictures in this musical exhibition, but also so human with all its anxieties and its dreams … Rarely has this work seemed so limpid and yet so vaporous, so breathless and so serene, so scalding and so icy.” This affirms Classic FM’s judgment on Anderszewski in Schumann: “He probes the extremes of Schumann's spiritual world, evoking a terrific spectrum of feeling ... Anderszewski has the profundity of vision to comprehend these works, the intellect to pace their emotions and the virtuosity to perform them with flair, radiant tone and rapt wonder.”

In 2015 Anderszewski performed the ‘Ghost Variations’ at a recital in Belgium. The writer for the magazine Crescendo, having praised the pianist’s “stunning variety of touch and extraordinary sonic palette, always put at the service of an intelligent and sensitive interpretation,” went on to say that: “If any further proof were needed of the pianist’s imagination and subtlety, it was amply supplied in a profound and compelling performance of the ‘Ghost Variations’ in which – to paraphrase the composer himself – the poet spoke … and the poet’s name was  Piotr Anderszewski.”

Piotr Anderszewski's new album of Mozart & Schumann, Fantaisies, is out now.