It was Piotr Anderszewski’s parents, his father Polish and his mother Hungarian, who decided that he should learn the piano. He began when he was six years of age, continuing his studies at the Chopin Academy in Warsaw, at the Lyons and Strasbourg Conservatoires, and at the University of Southern California.
Anderszewski came into the public eye when he left the stage during the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1990. At that particular moment he felt he could not give a performance of Webern’s Variations Op. 27 that would satisfy himself, but he is aware now that self-criticism can be destructive. A recital at London’s Wigmore Hall followed where he played Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli’ Variations Op. 120 and he immediately gained a reputation for the depth and sincerity of his interpretations. Anderszewski has played with many world-class orchestras including the London Symphony, Philharmonia, and Warsaw Philharmonic, and during the 2000–2001 season made his American orchestral debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His orchestral debut in New York was in the summer of 2001 at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Anderszewski participates in many European festivals including Cheltenham, where he was artist in residence in 2000, Bergen, Edinburgh and Lucerne.
Recording projects are carefully chosen by Anderszewski, since he is not keen to record everything in his repertoire. ‘I used to collect records and listen to
masses of music, particularly Gould, Michelangeli, Menuhin, Reiner and, of course, Richter…He’s a kind of musical father-figure to me.’
Anderszewski’s first CD, of works by Bach, Beethoven and Webern, won the Polish Critics’ Prize, and in 1999 Harmonia Mundi issued a disc of works by Bach in their Les Nouveaux Interprètes series. For Philips he has recorded two discs of violin sonatas with Viktoria Mullova and in 2000 he signed an exclusive contract with Virgin Classics. ‘I believe that unless one has something really special to say that has not been said before, there is no point releasing the 999th version of a Beethoven sonata. I now feel mature enough to put down the Diabellis and would like to do it before I reach thirty.’ He did so: it was his first release for Virgin, and has become a work now closely associated with Anderszewski. Indeed at the same time, a documentary film by Bruno Monsaigneon was also made, exploring the pianist’s affinity with this work.
A disc followed of Mozart concertos, on which Anderszewski also directs the Sinfonia Varsovia from the keyboard. As with all Anderszewski’s playing, everything is considered, weighed up and thought out; his approach is intelligent, serious and intellectual and he plays his own cadenzas. One critic described the playing on his Bach disc for Harmonia Mundi as ‘post-romantic but emotionally impersonal’, but most of Anderszewski’s performances and recordings currently get rave reviews. Of the Beethoven ‘Diabelli’ recording for Virgin one critic wrote, ‘The artistry is every bit as transfixing…the insight revelatory, the pianism extraordinary at every level. The man is some kind of genius…This performance will teach you more about the ‘Diabelli’ Variations (and about polyphony and harmonic structure and pianistic textures and spiritual universality) than any other known to me.’ An American critic, in his review of a public performance of the Variations stated, ‘Every piece on his two programmes demonstrated a fierce imagination abetted by mesmerizing technique…The high point was his expansive reading of Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli’ Variations…they grew clearly and organically from a profound intellectual engagement with the music, and they were played with utter conviction and deep concentration.’
Recent discs include three of Bach’s partitas, a recital of works by Karol Szymanowski including the Piano Sonata No. 3 and an extremely good Chopin recital in which Anderszewski gives superlative performances of seven mazurkas, the Ballades Nos 3 and 4 and two polonaises. Here is a subtle combination of poetry, refinement of sound and introspective depth that makes this one of the best Chopin recital discs available.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — Jonathan Summers (A–Z of Pianists, Naxos 8.558107–10).