A major pianist calls time out

If you’re an admirer of Piotr Anderszewski – and it’s hard not to be – you’ll know that the Polish-Hungarian pianist follows his own inner rhythms, shunning the big career, thinking deep and slow.

In a chance encounter with the photography website Humans of New York, Piotr announced he’s taking time out from playing, starting tomorrow:

ANDERSZEWSKI - Bach Suites anglaises 1,3,5


‘I’m a pianist. I’m playing my last concert Thursday night. Then I’m taking a sabbatical. Some of my friends think I’m crazy to step away now, but I don’t want to become a two-hundred-concert-per-year performing machine. It requires too much efficiency. And the efficiency burns you out. There is a lot of pressure when you perform at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. People pay for those tickets and you must respect your audience.

‘If you’re piloting a Boeing 777 with four hundred people on board, you aren’t going to try new maneuvers. You aren’t going to have fun or experiment. You don’t have time to stay in your dreams or ideas. You need to step back from the public eye so you have space to grow. I won’t say that taking time off makes you a ‘better’ musician, because I don’t like the word ‘better.’ It sounds competitive. But it does make you less of an automaton and more human. It’s like exploring a new continent. Time off is a space where you allow things to happen other than the known.’

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  • Excellent comments from an intelligent artist. The history of concertizing is also the history of great artists taking ‘time out’. Very best of luck to Piotr Anderszewski; we hope to see him back soon.

  • “There is a lot of pressure when you perform at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. People pay for those tickets and you must respect your audience.”

    I would hate to think that Mr. Anderszewski does not feel the exact same amount of pressure when performing in Seattle, Fukuoka, or Tashkent. Do those audiences attend for free and are not respectable? Or have I completely misread his statement and he indeed plays all 200 concerts in New York.

    Perhaps he has provided insight– and confirmed the suspicions of some– on how artists regard we bumpkins in the sticks.

    • He was interviewed near David Geffen Hall by Humans of New York, which doesn’t specifically target classical music listeners. I’m sure he mentioned Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center just to keep things relevant for New Yorkers.

    • Perhaps he has only ever played at those bigger, more prestigious venues!! I could well believe there would be pressure at Lincoln Center etc. because experienced and extremely critical music buffs would be at those, as they are in Vienna.These audiences know what they want and expect it to be delivered.

      I sat next to a woman who was well into her 70s in Vienna last year during a concert with Riccardo Muti conducting one of the German orchestras. During the break we discussed the performance and I remarked on what a thrill it was to be here with Maestro Muti was on the podium. She responded quite coolly, “yes, but I don’t like Muti’s Beethoven tempi”. Since that little chat I’ve heard more of Muti conducting Beethoven and I’m inclined to agree with her!!

      These are the audiences one gets in Vienna, and I’ve had plenty of other talks with music-lovers there to have formed that opinion.

      • I have no doubt that there are many knowledgeable and discerning people in the audiences in Vienna and New York. I have met such people there but also at many concerts in towns of all sizes, locales, and “sophistication.” I will accept that the major music centers have more such people at a concert.

        I would not like think that even the presence of one critical, though maybe–maybe– less experienced listener should be enough to warrant an artist’s best efforts. That lone listener should provide “pressure” enough, to say nothing of the lesser beings who pay good money and make the effort to show up, and allow this artist to have a career in music, to deserve nothing less.

          • I don’t think your comments and observations have anything much at all to do with what this pianist is saying. I’d certainly feel pressure at Lincoln Center (knowing that somebody like Alex Ross was going to do the review) rather than the San Antonio Town Hall.

            And one swallow doesn’t make a spring.

      • A NY so called critics appraisal of a recital is no more valid than that of some writer
        in Tashkent . To purchase a ticket to a concert based on some “good ” review by
        a NY writer is stupid and shows ones’ brain to be in park mode ,
        one also suspects that a great artist does not give a rats ass about the opinions
        expressed by a NY reviewer and may read the NY hack with the same idle curiosity he
        reads a writer from Tashkent , the difference being the breadth of readers in each city
        and the capital city review carrying more weight than a review from Tashkent . It is
        all location , location as real estate folk are want let us know .

    • In fact the pressure is a notch higher in Carnegie Hall. Simply because if you mess up there the potential repercussions are much bigger than for messing in Seattle or Tashkent. At least that’s how it was for the last hundred years, but in times of the social media global village that is changing too.

  • Impressing bumkins in the sticks is not the same as impressing a bored show me
    crowd in a capital city . A Seattle audience is not the same as a NY audience .
    I am positive if Mr. Anderszewski were to play in Seattle he would attend to the
    Seattle audience as much as he does the NY, London crowd . That he takes a
    sabbatical leaves us without a great artist who happens to play the piano- a far cry
    from the prize winning thumpers running about trying to impress.

  • Le syndrôme Gould ? Anderszewski est un pianiste dont le talent n’est pas à la hauteur des éloges qui lui sont régulièrement faits en GB et aux USA… Mais il cause bien et est beau garçon…

      • I heard him a few weeeks ago in Bach and it sounded indeed as sub-Gould. His Schumann was also sub-Gelber. No doudt that holidays will be good for him.

          • Non car Piotr lui-même se situe dans l’ombre portée de Glenn Gould. Et d’un autre côté respecter les propos des autres.

          • Bo je m’exprime dans ma langue maternelle : vous y voyez de l’arrogance : pourquoi parlez-vous de vous ? Nous parlons ici d’un pianiste de son désir de faire un break (en français dans le texte !) et de son talent. A mon avis, c’est un pianiste parmi des centaines et des centaines dont les Britanniques se sont entichés. Allez savoir pourquoi…

          • You obviously understand English, since you’re replying to me, then why don’t you reply in the same language.
            You put the burden of translation onto me instead of doing it yourself and making sure the translation makes sense, I find that arrogant.

            English is not my mother language yet I still use it so people won’t have to go around and translate everything I say.
            If everybody are to comment in whatever language they want it’s going to be difficult to follow any thread around here.

          • Les commentaires stupides sont toujours ceux des autres ne pensant pas comme soi… Mais bon, pour en revenir à Andersewski il est déjà programmé en mars 2017 au Théâtre des Champs-Elysées à Paris. Pianiste sans génie particulier, au jeu de piano sans qualités instrumentales remarquables, aux conceptions musicales post-adolescentes boutonneuses – moi ! moi ! moi ! -, au discours néo-gouldien immature… On a Grigori Sokolov d’un côté, nouvelle star divinisée par un public de sectateurs en manque de vraies divinités dont le jeu est un océan de beau piano musicalement zéro (un égo avec des doigts au bout) et Piotr Andersewski de l’autre, adulé pour les bizareries de sa pose gouldienne mais qui est un pianlste de petit calibre et un musicien sans intérêt.
            Je m’en vais écouter Radu Lupu, Nelson Freire, Martha Argerich, Stephen Hough, Benjamin Grosvenor, Nikolay Lugansky, Simon Trpceski, Kathrin Stott, Vadim Kholodenko, Genusias, Michel Dalberto, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Peter Donohe, Elisso Wirssaladze et tant et tant d’autres pianistes bien plus intéressants, émouvants, captivants, déterminants, grands, que Andersewski dont les états d’âme et les paradoxes pseudos-intellectuels font sourire… et le jeu parfois rire, mais tristement.

  • In another follow-up photo posted on Humans of New York, Anderszewski gave some additional very insightful comments about his approach to his art (aside from an arguably indelicate use of the word ‘autistic’):

    “Pleasing people is a huge drive. Any artist who tells you otherwise is either selfish or autistic. Art is a communication, and it’s not incompatible with your integrity to desire an audience. A public performance is a miracle. You never know who’s watching, but you feel a communion between yourself, the audience, and the composer who wrote the notes two hundred years ago. But fuck the notes. The notes are not important. They were the composer’s only means of communicating. The important thing is what’s between the notes and behind the notes. My job as a pianist is to interpret. Why did the composer put that note there? I need to understand the moment preceding the note. And when that happens– when I can reach back two hundred years and connect to a composer’s humanity, even if I’m completely alone, it’s the same feeling of communion as when I perform in front of an audience.”

    • Well, I’d have to disagree with the pianist about this because what he’s suggesting has all the elements of sloppiness which I think we’d all want to avoid. It sounds a bit precious to me, to be honest.

      All this reminds us of why we pay to listen to artists PLAY their instruments instead of talking!!

  • This public airing of semi-retirement asks many questions but provides few answers. Firstly, whose business is it? Secondly, Piotr is an extremely respected musician and pianist. His decisions about his life direction is personal, and we must respect that. Every artist has demands, develops at different paces and needs to reboot. If overworked, everyone handles that differently. Personally, I would have a meeting of the minds with my managers to cut back and maintain a healthy but not overly ambitious schedule. Thirdly, I would pick and choose repertoire that neither overburdens nor stifles my interpretive decision making. Regarding top level concert halls and pressure, that is also a very personal issue. For me, quite frankly, playing an outreach event in a nursing home is very daunting. I get people coming up to me telling me, my grandmother was a pupil of Schnabel, or, I heard Rachmaninov play. These people attended concerts and know their music. Never underestimate your public no matter where you play. Regarding how one relates to composers, oh I wish I knew Piotr so I can share ideas. One thing I have found on a personal level, aside from being diligent about pacing a career and not being overburdened (and I have finally learned how to say ‘no, I don’t think I can manage that’), is deciding to commission living composers to write new works for me for piano and orchestra. One thing I have learned is that in this process, it brings us closer to the composer, and the difference between the printed notes and how to interpret them. Believe it or not, composers do want the re-creative process to be individual. Not one composer ever told me, you must do it this way. But in each situation, they would always sing their music to make it most natural. In Piotr’s writings on FB, he did state this issue of the music beyond the printed notes. I have found in working with living composers, it has made it so much easier to revisit works by composers who are long gone. But that is also a personal statement. In essence, I wish Piotr well in his continuing journey, and look forward to the time when he returns at his discretion to the concert stage. Hopefully, he will have some time to make recordings which will immortalize his playing for the future.

  • I head Piotr at a Concertgebouw recital a few years ago and was disappointed (granted I only heard him once). I remember precision but little emotional content or depth. Maybe a break is not a bad thing for many pianists, especially the younger ones. My impression is that they focus so much on technique and precision that they seem to to forget they are first and foremost artists.

  • Would the absence from the concert circuit of Anderszewski have been noticed had he not made this statement ? I doubt it.

    • Strong point- one can easily say that all concert pianists would not be missed even the nonsensical list of players compiled by Lompech . It is a day and age when everyone
      does their laundry in public and Mr. Anderszewski is of his time so lets us know he
      is taking a sabbatical and if and when he returns lets hope he finds an audience, for truly
      his recitals were less tedious than these events tend to be ,no matter who is playing .

      • Everyone is entitled to prefer some pianists to others. Regarding Mr. Anderszewski, I have always been disappointed by his recitals. To the list published above by Mr. Lompech, let me add Zimerman, Kissin, Pires, Pollini, Pletnev, Perahia and Fleischer, who with the mentioned Lupu, Freire and Argerich are the ten living pianists who I have most admired and loved in concert. Wang was also a good surprise recently, despite an under-rehearsed “Jeunehomme” with Gergiev and the VPO at the Champs-Elysées a few weeks ago.

        • Pedro : absoluemebt d’accord, même si vous devriez intégrer quelques autres pianlstes dans votre panthéon des plus grands pianistes vivants. Groupe nombreux dont Piotr Anderszewski ne fait pas partie : ni pianistlquement, ni musicalement. Pianistiquement, il est faible et son jeu est petit, sec, sans couleurs et raide. Musicalement, il est encore plus faible, car il a du mal à se sortir de sa pose néogouldienne.

        • The piano thumpers you add to the list tells us a great deal as to the preferred type
          of player. All quite run of the mill -technically competent and to this listener not
          much else and all interchangeable in a pinch . While I would not cross the street to hear any of them ,I might ,just might give the likes of Anderszewski a listen for it seems even on a off night he has something to say musically other than see how well I play .
          What I find strange is that you seem to keep coming back to hear Anderszewski in recital though he continues to disappoint , why keep going back when you have a list of
          others who play better to your taste unless you are a glutton for punishment

          • Pas le moins du monde, Mika ! En connaissez-vous si peu de pianiste de cette liste, encore une fois ouverte et que je pourrais allonger encore et encore en ne parlant que de vivants, pour écrire ce que vous écrivez ? Vous manquez de perspicacité à un point rare à vouloir m’enfermer dans un type de pianiste ! C’en est assez amusant ! Pourquoi vais-je toujours écouter Anderszewski ? Vous posez la question : j’y répond : mais parce que la musique est une passion et mon métier, et qu’il est toujours intéressant de voir comment un artiste évolue. Bon, écoutez, vous adorez sans doute ce pianiste, ce qui est votre droit incontestable. Mais ce que vous dites des pianistes que j’ai cités manque de pertinence, à un point rare.

      • Milka si vous aviez bien lu, vous auriez vu que ma liste était grande ouverte… et pas le moins du monde fermée sur elle-même… Mais comme vous n’êtes pas ici pour parler du fond mais pour critiquer vos interlocuteurs, vous ne l’avez pas compris. Essayez de respecter les propos de vos interlocuteurs.

        • Cher Monsieur Lompech. Je suis absolument d’accord avec vous et j’essaie d’être à jour en ce qui concerne les autres pianistes, surtout les plus jeunes. Je dois vous dire que les déceptions ont eté récemment plus nombreuses que les bonnes surprises. J’ai oublié dans ma liste Pogorelich et Kovacevitch, ce qui prouve encore, s’il faut prouver quoi que ce soit, que mes goûts n’obéissent pas à un certain standard ( comme l’ecrit Milka ) mais à un critère etabli depuis que j’ai commencé à vivre par moi-même: seuls ceux qui ont quelque chose d’intéressant à dire m’intéressent. J’ai commencé à êcouter des pianistes il y à environ 45 ans. Par ordre chronologique, et ne comptant que ceux qui sont partis, mon premier fut Rubinstein, mon deuxième Serkin, mon troisième Gilels, ma quatriéme Annie Fischer, mon cinquième Magaloff, mon sixième Arrau, mon septiéme Horowitz, mon huitiéme Richter et mon neuviéme Michelangeli. Entre eux, il y a eu aussi Anda, Berman, Curzon, de Larrocha et Lefébure. Eclétique, non?

          • Pedro, on ne se fera pas enfermer entre les oeillères de qui que se soit ni se laisser imposer quoi que ce soit par qui que se soit : les artistes doivent être écoutés pour ce qu’ils sont, pas en fonction de la renommée qui leur vient par leur maison de disques ou un agent très habile. Je ne fais jamais attention à l’âge, l’origine, le sexe, avec qui a travaillé un artiste quand je l’écoute : un conseil ou deux : intéressez-vous à Lukas Genusias et à Vadim Kholodenko, deux pianlstes opposés en style, mais tous deux admirables artistes : ils sont dans un autre univers que celui factice et prétentieux d’Anderszewski.

    • Milka nous en revenons toujours au même point : vous êtes ici pour vous attaquer aux autres participants plutôt que pour parler du fond. Vous ne respectez donc pas vos interlocuteurs. Votre attitude est infantile et montre l’étendue de votre arrogance. C’est triste.

  • Piotr’s courage to “speak” his inner most desires is beyond admirable. Most artists eventually become OWNED by their audiences. The money. The press. I have never met Piotr but I love his recordings. I have never heard him in a live performance. Bruno Monsaigeon’s film Voageur intranquille is a brilliant portrait of a young brilliant pianist.

    Mr. Anderszewski may return from his sabbatical with new and intense energy which
    will enhance our musical lives. I do believe Piotr can HOLD HIS OWN when it comes to criticism or other’s opinions. As I said: he seems to be able to follow his own heart and mind and that demands enormous stability and most of all it does frighten and intimidate many people… Enjoy your holiday Piotr.

  • Le film de Monsaingeon est d’une prétention et fatuité impossibles. il enferme un peu plus, Anderszewski dans une pose néogouldienne… cette fois-ci démarquée des documentaires radiophoniques du pianiste canadien sur le Grand Nord dans lequel il se rendait et voyageait en train… Et vaguement des Voyages de Richter en Sibérie… Je ne suis d’ailleurs pas certain que Andersewski apprécie ce film de Monsaingeon : à un ami commun jeune pianiste brésilien il a dit “Ma gueule, toujours ma gueule, encore ma gueule..” sur un ton assez furieusement désespéré. En plus de cela, Piotr Anderszewski n’est vraiment pas un pianiste dont l’importance historique, le talent soient comparables à ceux de Gould et de Richter.

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