If you saw the movie "Shrek," you might remember the title character trying to explain to his friend, Donkey, "Ogres are like onions; they have layers." Once you dig beneath the surface, you discover there's a lot more to love about him, which is something like the attraction Polish pianist and conductor Piotr Anderszewski has for Mozart.
It's not that Mozart lacks surface appeal. But, as Anderszewski explains, he's not one of those composers who throw out their big ideas and knock your socks off right away. Mozart is different. He leaves room for musicians to work through the layers from different angles, so they can develop the smallest detail. That keeps the music interesting. To hear what Anderszewski means, just listen to his latest recording of Mozart piano concertos.
What is immediately striking about this new release is its simplicity. Mozart's music is about purity and clarity. Anderszewski tries to underscore those qualities in a couple of different ways. He doesn't get carried away with ornamentation and when he has something to say, he forges ahead without letting anything get in his way. Yet, at the same time, his approach is deliberate and thoughtful.
Anderszewski believes happiness comes from being in the moment. He refuses to play a piece in public until he's lived with it for a long time. That total immersion allows him to get lost in the pulsating rhythm of the work. For Anderszewski, it's not about following a strict time signature but communicating a sense of direction. In the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17, he lingers when he feels the need and then powers up when it's time for an added dramatic effect. Anderszewski's Mozart never sounds forced, and the orchestra is quite comfortable following his lead. He is clearly in charge as the soloist and conductor.
Mozart's music is an expression of the way we live our lives. It's about the emotions we experience on a daily basis, and his Piano Concerto No. 17 is a perfect example of how he creates this ebb and flow. But it's not all about that with Mozart. Great technical skill is crucial to communicate Mozart's intentions, skill that Anderszewski has in great abundance. With his simple, personal approach, the playing is clear and clean, but not without passion, matching the character of this concerto. It runs the gamut from sadness to joy to compassion and that little boost of positive energy we all need, particularly at the end of a long, rough week.
Piotr Anderszewski breathes life into Mozart's music. Any pianist can play the notes, but Anderszewski executes this music just as Mozart intended, with great feeling, peeling away the layers to find the true spirit within.
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