Maurizio Pollini – Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 – Staatskapelle Dresden/Thielemann [Deutsche Grammophon]

0 of 5 stars

Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Op.15

Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Staatskapelle Dresden
Christian Thielemann

Recorded June 2011 in Semperoper, Dresden

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2011
CD No: DG 477 9882
Duration: 46 minutes

Maurizio Pollini has recorded Brahms’s First Piano Concerto twice before, first with Karl Böhm conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, then with Claudio Abbado in Berlin, and now with Christian Thielemann at the Dresden helm – and all for the ‘yellow label’ that is Deutsche Grammophon.

Recorded live, the opening of this titanic work is suitably fiery, with timpani, horns and woodwinds to the fore, trills chiselled. There are though some momentary ‘comings and goings’ in the sound (from two minutes in for about thirty seconds – almost as if this recording emanates not from within the hall but was taken as a radio broadcast; and there are some faint eddies elsewhere). Pollini responds to the vivid orchestral introduction with an aristocratic flourish and a welcome directness of utterance. This refreshingly rigorous account, but one not without feeling, finds Pollini shapely without exaggeration and virtuoso while avoiding flashiness; he concentrates on line and structure, the music classically contoured and romantically rousing, and vibrantly complemented by the great Dresden orchestra under a conductor who appreciates the past glories of this music; here is clarity, weight (superb double basses) and excitement rolled into one. The eloquent Adagio (here with a distinct forward current) is deeply-felt without mawkishness; Pollini’s nobility and inwardness, and Thielemann and the Dresdeners’ expressive entreaties, bring us a hallowed experience. The finale has impulse without becoming a speed trial, offering a dignified counterpart to the opening movement, a spacious and substantial summing up. Antiphonal violins open-out the fugal writing.

This is a sovereign performance, openly and airily recorded, a certain dryness aiding clarity; Pollini is captured closely with the orchestra well in the frame, too, Thielemann intent on partnership rather than accompaniment. There is much to thrill and move here in an account that avoids stasis and sensationalism, and which seems a genuine one-off caught on the wing. Applause is excised.

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