PIOTR ANDERSZEWSKI

WHAT'S COOKING

Piotr Anderszewski und das Klavier (NDR film)
Anderszewski on Schumann and Mozart
It has always fascinated me how a composer's inspiration materialises as a musical score. By what process can a musical thought be written down without losing the spirit of its initial impulse? We know how fast and flawlessly Mozart wrote. He seemed to have the entire piece, with its every detail, in his head -whether a small minuet or a whole symphony - and would then write it down, seemingly without hesitation. Schumann's process was possibly slightly different, more methodical. But when one reads how fast Schumann actually wrote, how unbelievably quickly some of his large-scale, complicated piano pieces were composed, one can't help but draw a similarity here with Mozart: music that was in his head flowed unimpeded onto the paper, seemingly without his holding back.

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. He does not try to correct that impulse - even if imperfect - and that awkwardness, if approached with care and love by the interpreter, can become extremely touching, vulnerable, human.

I can hear in the music of both composers a similarity in their processes of giving physical form to their musical ideas. The cruel resistance of the blank page feels, in both cases, inexistent, disregarded. And therein lies for me an important, precious connection between Mozart and Schumann: an unobstructed directness to their music, in which the purity of intention remains intact.
Interview at the Berlin Philharmonie, October 2015
Interview: Anderszewski plays Schumann
New York Times interview, February 2017
Anderszewski on Szymanowski
Entering uncharted waters is nerve-racking and can pose innumerable problems. This was certainly the case [with Szymanowski]. But what satisfaction, what a wonderful revelation when a new continent comes on to the horizon and the world becomes much more extensive than one could have imagined! This was the case too.

The difficulty with Szymanowski lies in finding the guiding thread, that line which leads one from the first note to the last. It's very subterranean, not visible at first glance. It's perhaps for this reason that his music is not much played. Once one has discovered it, heard and understood it, his music takes off, acquiring a limpidity and inevitability which is almost Mozartian. I well remember the day when this 'inner thread' revealed itself to me for the first time. It was when I was studying 'Calypso.' I felt a supreme sense of elation.

Anderszewski on Mozart
Why does Mozart's music move me so? Is it a feeling of paradise lost which it evokes? The nostalgia for an amoral world, without the slightest feeling of guilt, where the divine and the mundane co-exist in the most complete harmony?

For me the most touching Mozart , and perhaps the most extreme in its good humoured appreciation of the paradoxical, is the Magic Flute. I don't know any music which is sadder, more resigned, more joyful; more dark or more luminous, more divine or more impertinent.

This is music written by a wise head.
Bruno Monsaingeon on the film 'Unquiet Traveller'
Bruno Monsaingeon on Beethoven's Diabelli Variations
The sheer size of the Diabelli Variations (over an hour of music) and the boldness of its conception make it the historical pinnacle of all the literature for piano. It parallels J S Bach's Goldberg Variations and is Beethoven's pianistic testament.

In 1819, Austrian music publisher and composer Anton Diabelli invited about fifty of the most prominent composers of the day to write a variation on the theme of a waltz of his own composition, for a collective publication. Among those who participated in this project were Czerny, Schubert, Hummel, and the young Liszt who was then only eleven. Beethoven at first declined the invitation. However, he eventually changed his mind and, after four years of labour, finally produced not just one but a collection of thirty-three variations. A prodigious work that, technically as well as emotionally, fathoms all the possibilities of the genre. A veritable labyrinth in which the performer must, aside from overcoming enormous instrumental difficulties, discover and convey the guiding thread.

Very few pianists have dared tackle this masterpiece. Yet Piotr Anderszewski's early reputation was in fact built around his confrontation with this intimidating opus. While most performers wait to reach so-called maturity before approaching a work of such massive scope, Piotr Anderszewski - at that time a complete unknown and only twenty-one years of age - included the Diabelli Variations in the programme he performed at the prestigious Harveys Leeds International Piano Competition in 1990. This bold move was unprecedented: candidates in such competitions usually attempt to sparkle without taking risks, in more easily accessible works by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and company. Anderszewski's performance skyrocketed him into both public and critical acclaim...

Nearly ten years later, a film and a CD have been made. The film begins with a series of illustrated explanations in which Piotr Anderszewski gives us his analysis of the Diabelli Variations. It is followed by a complete performance of the piece, filmed and edited in such a way as to reconcile spontaneity, perfection of the sound and eloquence of the pianist's expression.

There is such a strong identification between the performer and the music that I would not be surprised if Piotr Anderszewski were to become equated with the Diabelli Variations in much the same, phenomenal way Glenn Gould is mythically equated with the Goldberg Variations.

© Bruno Monsaingeon 2000