From Bill's Desk
Jan Lisiecki: A Thinking Man’s Pianist
Fresh and exciting piano voices abound these days, and it’s hard to keep up with the emerging talent; every time you turn around, a new face is being cited as the next superstar. But now and then, someone comes along who makes you sit up and take special notice. That was the case with 23-year-old Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, whom I first heard play Chopin with the New York Philharmonic. He’s become a favorite of mine, and should become one of yours too after his McCarter recital debut on March 18th — just a few days after he plays with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and NJPAC.
When you start playing the piano at age five, there is always the risk of being called a “child prodigy,” but Lisiecki has skipped this phase and jumped to artistic maturity as one of the most imaginative and poetic artists of his generation – which Deutsche Grammophone recognized by signing him at age 15. Understandably, given his Polish heritage (although he was born in Canada and still lives there), Lisiecki has become a Chopin specialist; his CD of the two piano concertos rivals any other in the catalog. But it’s his other recent CD of solo Chopin piano works that really stands out and separates him from the crowd. And I can’t say it better than Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times did: “Mr. Lisiecki’s blend of youthful brilliance, refinement and grace are perfect for this music.”
Luckily for us, his McCarter program includes a generous dose of Chopin: the Scherzo No. 1 and several Nocturnes. But Lisiecki reveals an inquiring mind at work in that his program has its own theme: “Night Music,” through which he wants to show his audience “the many facets of this genre of piano repertoire,” not just music that has “night” in the title (like Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and the Schumann Nachtstucke, both of which he will play.) As a result, we will also get to hear something we never get to hear: Rachmaninoff’s Cinq Morceaux de fantasie, Op.3 — two of which have titles related to the night. For once, a thinking man’s pianist – and at the same time, a brilliant one.