Since 2005, when Rafał Blechacz became the first Polish musician in three decades to win Warsaw’s International Chopin Piano Competition, he has become an established star, winning the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, Echo Klassik Awards, and several gold records and appearing with the world’s major orchestras. He has been prolific, recording Chopin’s complete preludes, piano concertos, and polonaises alongside works by other masters. The New York Times observed that Blechacz finds “subtle ways to uncover freshness and spontaneity” in familiar repertoire, while Bachtrack called his playing “crystalline and elegant.” In his third visit to Duke Performances since 2010, Blechacz begins by contrasting Mozart’s sprightly and uplifting Rondo in A Minor with his bleak Sonata in A Minor, the latter written during the final illness of Mozart’s mother. Blechacz turns to Beethoven’s brilliantly expressive late Sonata in A Major, op. 101, then delights with Schumann’s animated Carnival Scenes from Vienna. He ends the evening with two works by his compatriot Chopin: the tempestous Mazurkas, based on folk dance melodies, and the concert’s culmination, the Ballade No. 4, a work of extreme beauty.