Performances of Czech composer Leoš Janáček’s early 20th-century music are steadily on the rise worldwide. Especially popular are his entrancing operas, such as Jenůfa and The Cunning Little Vixen. Janáček wrote in an idiosyncratic modernist style that drew on folk sources and pushed the bounds of traditional harmony but never abandoned the tonal realm. “It’s very difficult to describe,” said the acclaimed Polish-born pianist Piotr Anderszewski. “It’s a very unique language. There is nothing like it before or after.”
For his first appearance here since 2009, Anderszewski will perform Book II from Janáček’s On an Overgrown Path, as part of an SCP Piano recital on Oct. 22. “It’s a cycle of small pieces, which are just so wonderfully original in every single way — harmonically, rhythmically,” he said. “It’s incredibly intimate and touching music. It’s like his intimate little notebook, these pieces. And when the performance goes well, this is what I hope happens: that the audience is drawn into a very intimate, very small room suddenly, and it’s like somebody whispering, and you have to get very close to hear something very subtle and a little bit secret.”
Also on the program will be works by fellow countryman Frédéric Chopin, including the Polonaise-Fantasy in A-flat Major, Op. 61, a piece that Anderszewski only recently added to his repertoire. Indeed, he has not performed any music by the Polish composer for a decade or so. “It’s a very strange relationship,” he said. “I’ve played relatively little Chopin, really. I have a great affinity, but he was never a composer I could play in big doses. It’s nothing like Bach or Mozart, where I can play a full recital. I can play Bach five seasons in a row, and I will never feel tired.”
In September, when he was assembling his programs for 2017-18, the Polonaise-Fantasy “imposed itself.” In deciding to perform a certain work, Anderszewski has to have a contented “feeling” about how a piece proceeds from the silence that precedes the first note to the silence that follows the final chord. “I guess I’m just very interested in architecture generally, whether it’s music or literature or architecture itself,” he said.
The pianist, who maintains residences in Paris and Lisbon, travels less frequently to the United States now than he did in the years immediately after winning the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in 2002. The number of his American visits depends on several factors, he said, including how the long treks fit into his over-all schedule.
Plus, as he said with chuckle, “You have to get the invitation, you know. Not everybody invites me.”
Note: After the recital, there will be a post-concert screening of the 36-minute documentary “Warsaw Is My Name,” directed by Piotr Anderszewski, and a Q&A session with the artist in Buntrock Hall. The event is free and open to all ticket holders. (A trailer from the movie is attached to this post.)
TOP: Piotr Anderszewski returns Oct. 22 to Symphony Center for his first recital here since 2009. | Photo: Ari Rossner/Warner Classics