Distler: Forgive me if this question seems inappropriate,
but I just can't resist the temptation to ask
what you'll do with all that Gilmore prize money!
Anderszewski: [laughs] Well, you see, I've
got four years. Definitely I would like to buy
a piano, and to get a place in good condition
where I can put the piano. And I'd use the money
for special projects that I'd be interested in
recording but maybe my record company wouldn't
want. Music that I feel strongly about, like Szymanowski's
Masques, Metopes, the Third Sonata and the Symphonie
You'd own the master tape, in other words?
Yes. Perhaps I could license the recordings, and
if nobody wants them, well, too bad!
How did the idea of a Diabelli Variations performance
film starring Piotr Anderszewski come about?
Bruno Monsaingeon, by chance, heard me play the
Diabelli Variations and he liked them very much.
We then became friends and talked lots and lots
about music. Then he had this idea to make a film
of me playing the Diabelli. A long and difficult
process followed in order to prepare the production.
One wonders if the shots and camera angles Monsaingeon
devised for the film were drawn up with Beethoven's
structural game plan in mind.
That was Bruno's genius, not my doing. I didn't
want to interfere with his visual ideas, which
he had planned from the very beginning and worked
on for a very long time.
What went through your mind when you saw the film
for the first time?
I was most surprised by me, by my face, my
body language: it's strange to see yourself from
During the course of the film you make an analogy
between playing the Diabelli Variations and walking
your dog. Can you elaborate?
The theme is not particularly interesting,
but it's got fantastic potential to be transformed.
It's like a constant and loving observation of
the changes that Beethoven brings to the theme,
and observing Beethoven's differences in attitude
from variation to variation — just like you love
your dog and you enjoy watching his behavior change,
enjoying the miracle of life.
One minute barking, the next minute scratching
himself, then suddenly running around and chasing
You analyze the changes, but not coldly, not
classifying them as if you were in a library.
There's a great scene where you play the Fugue
from the Credo of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis,
and the music sounds unusually clear and transparent
on the piano.
I'm fascinated by orchestral repertoire and
[I] love to play it on the piano, although I do
so less nowadays. As a child I used to love to
play symphonies and Masses on the piano, just
Many symphonies used to be available in duet and
two-piano arrangements .
You know, I am not very fond of the sound
of two pianos. Somehow they're never completely
in tune; it's very difficult to be together. In
a way, the piano loses its dynamics and the sound
becomes impoverished. With just two hands and
twenty fingers, what variety and richness of the
text and the sounds you can actually produce!
It's really quite amazing.
One trait I constantly notice in your playing
is that the care you take projecting your sonority
seems to factor into your choice of tempi.
Yes, I have a tendency towards slow tempi, if
that's what you mean!
You said it, I didn't!
This tendency has to do with the definition in
my playing, when I can't bear to let go the end
of a phrase.
In the Diabellis, for instance, many pianists
emphasize the allegro directive in Variation Six,
but ignore the "ma non troppo" ["but not too much"]
Here Beethoven also marks "serioso," but the
seriousness is pompously ironic.
What are the challenges in conducting concertos
from the piano, as you do in your recent recordings
I wouldn't even say that I conduct these works
from the piano. In fact, the more I do it, the
less I conduct. Of course someone has to take
the artistic responsibility, so during the rehearsals
I try to be more defined and convey everything
that I would like ... but Mozart is so well written
and so brilliantly orchestrated that you can just
give the tempi and the music balances itself.
At the moment I'm studying the G major Concerto
K. 453, and I'm really amazed by the some of the
contrapuntal lines in the first movement that
you don't often hear, like what the bassoon plays
against the phrases going back and forth between
the flute and oboe.
Do you improvise your own cadenzas?
Oh my God, we're talking about kitchen business!
[i.e., "trade secrets"] To tell you the truth,
no, I don't. I have them all written out.
But do you improvise to generate ideas?
I've always been interested in composition and
improvisation, and my cadenzas begin from my improvising
and playing, playing, playing . sometimes for
hours. Eventually something sticks in my brain,
and then I write it down. In the C minor and C
major I didn't want to write cadenzas as I imagine
Mozart would have done. Now I'm sure that Mozart
would not have wanted to write cadenzas like mine,
he'd write things much simpler, and much more
figurative, less thematic, basically leading from
the orchestral six-four chord to the dominant.
Whenever Mozart wrote a cadenza, I play it because
. I don't know, it's just there. In my cadenzas
I just like to explore the musical material of
the movement, and integrate it without going too
far — like into atonality! However if someone
wrote an atonal cadenza to a Mozart concerto,
I wouldn't have anything against it if it was
well written, interesting, inventive — in a way,
a work of art on its own.
I'm thinking of that strange first movement cadenza
Benjamin Britten wrote for the E-flat Concerto
K. 482, that Sviatoslav Richter played. Did you
get a chance to hear Richter in concert?
Yes, I turned pages for him in Warsaw.
Were you nervous?
I was traumatized! He never wanted the turner
to take the initiative, he always gave the sign
to turn, but the signs were very clear. He was
an extremely gentle and nice man, very refined,
Most of Richter's recordings are live — he called
the studio "the torture chamber." What are your
thoughts regarding live versus studio performance?
They're almost different professions. Music
has to do with how you distribute sound in an
amount of time. During a concert you have one
chance, your only chance, in real time. In the
half-hour it takes to play a Bach Partita you
have to put months and months of thinking about
and playing the piece. That involves incredible
concentration and stress, but it also gives a
dynamic to the performance, and extra-musical
factors like . adrenaline? [laughs] With recordings
you can stop the time. The fact that you know
in the back of your mind that you can play again
for the final result — that changes everything.
Recording gives me enormous satisfaction because
it's more of a purely musical exercise. I adore
editing. It's like a rock has been placed in front
of you, and you have the time to sculpt. In fact,
when I was editing my Mozart disc, I never before
felt so close to Mozart and to those pieces as
when I was listening over and over again through
hours of material, and discovering new lines I
wasn't aware of before, even though I had recorded
them. The recordings don't change, but you change!