Pianist Rafał Blechacz Wins $300,000 Gilmore Award

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The Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz has won the $300,000 Gilmore Artist Award, a piano competition so secretive that the contestants aren't even aware that they are in the running, the award organizers said Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Blechacz, who has performed widely throughout Europe and Japan, is the seventh recipient of the Gilmore prize, which is given out every four years. He will receive $50,000 in cash and $250,000 over the next four years in support of his musical and career goals.

Blechacz will appear on Wednesday at 5:30 pm in The Greene Space at WQXR, where he’ll perform works by Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy. Hosts Jeff Spurgeon and Fred Child will interview him about his career. The event will be streamed live on WQXR.org.

Unlike most piano competitions, Blechacz never knew he was a candidate for the award or that he was being critiqued by a panel of judges who traveled anonymously to hear him under actual concert conditions. Funded through the $100 million estate of the late department store magnate, Irving S. Gilmore of Kalamazoo, Mich., the Gilmore Competition operates silently, like the McArthur Foundation or the Pulitzer Prize committee. Past Gilmore recipients include Kirill Gerstein (2010), Ingrid Fliter (2006), Piotr Anderszewski (2002) and Leif Ove Andsnes (1998).

The Polish-trained Blechacz was the winner of the 2005 Chopin Competition in Warsaw in all five categories and has had an increasingly active touring career since. His recordings for Deutsche Grammophon encompass much Chopin, along with Haydn and Beethoven sonatas and a CD pairing of Debussy’s Pour le piano with Szymanowski’s Preludium. Blechacz is pursuing a Doctorate in philosophy with emphasis in aesthetics and the philosophy of music at Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika.