Andrzej Wierciński at St Mary’s the making of a great artist

Friday 27 May 7.30 pm

With this special evening concert I was unable to watch live but I was able to hear enough of the fourth ballade on my phone to realize that the young pianist I have heard many times in Perivale, also streamed from Poland has matured into an artist of quite considerable stature. I even confused him with his look alike brother, Krzysztof, also a very talented pianist streamed from Warsaw : Unfortunately in Italy we are an hour ahead of the UK so an 8.30 start coincides with so many other family activities but I had heard enough to whet my appetite to be able to listen just a few hours later.

There was a great sense of style and ravishing colours in Paderewski’s much neglected Nocturne from his set of pieces op 16.It was immediately apparent his authority and personality as he shaped this simple piece with such flexibility and a ravishing sense of colour and style. It was this that was to be the hallmark of all he did during the recital as he imbued each work with such character finding subtle colours within the counterpoints that he just allowed to glow for a moment without disturbing the overall flow of the music. It is interesting to note that Paderewski was born to Polish parents in the village of Kuryłówka that is now part of the Khmilnyk raion of Vinnytsia Oblast in Ukraine. After three years of study with Leschetizky Paderewski made his concert debut in Vienna in 1887 and soon gained great popularity in Paris in 1889 and in London in 1890.Audiences responded to his brilliant playing with almost extravagant displays of admiration, and Paderewski also gained access to the halls of power. In 1891, Paderewski repeated his triumphs on an American tour where he toured more than 30 times for the next five decades, and it would become his second home. In 1919, in the newly independent Poland, Paderewski was appointed Prime Minister of Poland and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland (January 1919 – December 1919). He and Dmowski represented Poland at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and dealt with issues regarding territorial claims and minority rights.He signed the Treaty of Versailles which recognized Polish independence won after World War I.This beautiful piece is the fourth in his set of seven pieces op 16 that he would obviously have used on his concert tours.It was published in 1892 in New York.

The fourth Ballade by Chopin, together with the Schumann Fantasie and Liszt B minor Sonata, is considered to be the pinnacle of the Romantic repertoire. Andrzej from the very opening with his sense of freedom and style illuminated the introduction with some magical colouring. It was this flexibility and great personality that illuminated this work as only a great artist can do. A personality that allows the music to speak without interrupting or disturbing what the composer had actually written on the page. It was a true lesson of how a work can be brought to life and bring such new meaning to a well worn classic. Today Andrzej brought this work vividly to life as he allowed the music to flow with such ease and naturalness. There was great power too as he brought the music to its climax adding just a very subtle bass D flat at the beginning of the tumultuous build up. The coda too was given great shape with a technical authority that allowed him to mould this often maltreated coda into the exciting culmination of one of Chopin’s greatest journeys. There was great beauty in the first variation where the melodic line can so often be submerged by the ever more insistent counterpoints as it builds up to the first full climax. It was a climax though that was but a short stop on the long journey that Andrzej could see so clearly. It was but a bridge to the second subject that was played with beauty and a ravishing sense of balance as it brought us to the return of the opening introduction ‘avec un sentiment de regret’ according to Cortot. It was the same vision that Andrzej showed us with the magical cadenza before the almost Bachian counterpoints that Chopin adds to his simple theme before the beautiful embellishments decorating the theme on its way to the lead up to the final explosion of romantic fervor.

The late nocturne op 62 n.1 was full of ravishing sounds with his superb sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing with such luminosity unimpeded by the intricate countermelodies which just added colour to the overall musical line.There were cascades of notes that seemed to flow so naturally from his hands and the trills that were just vibrations of sound as they wove their way around the melodic line.There was also a great sense of nostalgia as the nocturne gently weaved its way to the final bars with such exquisite sensibility .A deep added bass note just gave a final glow to this ravishing performance.

One had been aware too of Andrzej’s gentle circular movements almost as though swimming in water where there were no splashes but a constant movement out of which the music flowed so naturally. It was so refreshing to see how the beauty of sound was linked to the beauty of his movements as a painter might brush strokes to a canvas.

The first of Chopin’s waltzes is one of the most scintillating and technically demanding. Op 18 was also used for the ballet Les Sylphides a collection of Chopin’s most famous pieces. Grande Valse Brillante is just that ,with its irresistible sense of dance played with a clarity and sense of subtle rubato that I have not heard played with such style since the Sunday afternoon Chopin recitals by Jan Smeterlin and Stefan Askenase .The great sense of character that he brought to this waltz was of a born Chopin player. With impeccable good taste and a technical mastery whether it be the jeux perlé repeated notes, lines of acciaccaturas or the streams of seamless scales that poured from his hands like silver. The energy and exhilaration that he brought to the end I have only heard from his compatriot Artur Rubinstein. An aristocratic sense of style with the just amount of showmanship with pieces that the composer himself would have ravished and excited his audiences within the Parisian salons of the day.

The Scherzo in B minor op 20 and the Polonaise op 53 are two of Chopin’s best known works. They both received remarkable performances free of any rhetoric but full of invention and colour allied to a transcendental control of the keyboard that allowed him to plunge into the opening flourishes of notes in the scherzo or attack at full speed the demonic octaves at the centre of the Polonaise. He gave such shape to the intricate web of notes in the scherzo and the Christmas song that Chopin quotes in the central section was played with enviably rich mellow sound. There was beauty in the Polonaise too as he allowed a respite to the galloping horses in the magical build up to the final heroic climax. Passion and control – authority and character were the outstanding features of these very fine performances.

The beautiful Litanei by Schubert was given a ravishing performance in Liszt’s transcription ,where in just two pages he could create a religious stillness with a sense of balance and beauty of sound that was breathtaking.

Rachmaninov Corelli Variations Op 42

Rachmaninov’s Corelli variations were a ‘tour de force’ of technical brilliance and masterly control of sound. From the luminosity of the simple theme he was able to give such character to each of the variations. Even the sparkling cadenzas were shaped in such a musically way giving meaning to the notes that were just musical shapes of exquisite beauty and excitement. The tumultuous final octaves at the end were allowed to vibrate as the theme magically reappeared on a cloud of sound much as Bach’s Aria in the Goldberg variations returns after a momentous voyage of discovery.

A remarkable recital from a pianist that over these few years has matured into a artist of great stature. The little Mazurka op 24 n.2 was the perfect way of thanking his faithful public after his fifth performance at St Mary’s. We look forward to many more occasions of appreciating the great artistry of this young musician.

Andrzej Wierciński is a semi finalist of the XVIII International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 2021. Over the last decade Andrzej has earned an impressive string of awards at prestigious Polish and international piano competitions – most notably winning 1st Prizes at: the International F. Chopin Competition “Golden Ring” in Slovenia (2014), the International F. Chopin Competition in Budapest (2014), the International Neapolitan Masters Competition in Naples (2018), the First Vienna International Music Competition (2019), the International Piano Competition in Saint-Priest in France (2019) and the 46th Polish F. Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Those prizes have included many concert engagements abroad, golden medals and cooperation with recording labels in Europe and the Far East, as well as gaining for Andrzej an expanded following of listeners to his music. For example, during the visit to Japan in 2015 of the President of Poland (H. E. Bronisław Komorowski), Andrzej played a Chopin recital in Tokyo in the presence of Princess Masako Owada. In 2015 the KAWAI company invited him to play in Asia whilst in 2019 Andrzej performed a special recital for the Cobbe Collection Trust of historic instruments at Hatchlands Park in the UK, then playing on the 1845 Erard used by Thalberg. He has played concerts in most European countries – including several in the UK – as well as in Canada, Japan and Indonesia. He has performed at significant venues throughout Holland – Het Concertgebouw, and in Slovak Philharmonic and in Warsaw at the Łazienki Królewskie (Chopin’s statue). Andrzej has also collaborated with the best orchestras in the country, such as the National Philharmonic Orchestra and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In developing his music career Andrzej has taken part in international master courses conducted by eminent pedagogues such as Michel Beroff, Dmitri Alexeev, Akiko Ebi, Andrzej Jasiński, Lee Kum-Sing, Anna Malikova, Dang Thai Son. He has also benefited from invaluable advice and encouragement from Daniil Trifonov. Andrzej Wierciński holds Artistic Scholarships from the Sinfonia Varsovia Foundation, the Krystian Zimerman Scholarship and the YAMAHA Foundation. In 2016 he released his first CD (of works by Chopin, Schumann and Scarlatti).