Rafal Blechacz, a Polish pianist who performed at Union College on Oct. 12, 2012, has been awarded the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award.
The $300,000 prize, the music world’s version of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, is awarded every four years. Selection committee judges conduct their search worldwide, and members of the panel were in Schenectady in October of 2012 to see Blechacz perform as part of the Union College Concert Series.
“I saw certain names on our ticket list, so I knew something was up,” said Derek Delaney, director of the series. “But I also know the whole Gilmore process is very secretive and they travel the world looking at many different people before they whittle down the list of names.”
Delaney, who was at the announcement Wednesday in New York City, said that the 28-year-old Blechacz will return to Union this October.
“Rafal got quite a rousing standing ovation when he was here,” said Delaney. “He’s not a firebrand virtuoso, but he is a beautiful and poetic musician. . . . I was familiar with his work, but it’s not like he was a familiar name to most people. That, of course, is changing.”
In 2005, Blechacz won the Chopin Piano Competition. He is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland.