Ballade in F, Op.38
4 Mazurkas, Op.33
3 Waltzes, Op.34
Impromptu in F sharp, Op.36
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35
Maurizio Pollini (piano)
Recorded March 2008 in Herkulessaal, Munich
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2008
CD No: DG 477 7626
Duration: 57 minutes
Typically Maurizio Pollini gives us quality rather than quantity in a programme designed by almost-sequential opus numbers but re-ordered as a very satisfying sequence.
The opening of the F major Ballade is wonderfully weighted and full of pathos. Then come optimum contrast in terms of dynamics (loud!) and emotion (stormy!) – and not a little heroism, too. At no time does Pollini view the scenery or offer a little something to the gallery – and he has a fine ear for Chopin’s use of dissonance and this piece’s ambiguity.
Whether Pollini is quite elusive enough in these particular Mazurkas is a moot point; what is beyond doubt is his sovereign and sensitive approach to the quieter pieces and his – even finer – earthy, in-the-tavern, demonstration with the rollicking D major example (poise not threatened, though). There is no lack of sentiment in the extended B minor finale, marked Mesto (sad), the line pure and unsullied by sentimentality. Pollini’s playing of the A flat Waltz is joyous, beautifully balanced between the hands, and then nicely contrasted with the yearning A minor piece, before the F major spins in delirium.
Before setting down his latest thoughts on the B flat minor Sonata, Pollini finds a momentous (Lisztian) climax in the F sharp Impromptu, such welling-up something of a surprise after a languid opening but on-setting the welter of decorative notes that then ensue.
The Sonata is quite measured in the (repeated) exposition – the repeat including the ‘Grave’ opening bars, which some pianists, Mitsuko Uchida being the initiator, believe was Chopin’s intention (very convincing here and maybe the reason why Pollini wished to re-record the work) – but takes emotional flight in the ‘second subject’ and dramatic purpose in the development. The scherzo is both fiery and majestic, the trio ‘at one’ with the outer sections, Pollini’s lack of dawdle is welcome and not pre-empting of the serenity at the centre of the ‘Funeral March’, its progression definite (and quite angry) until the songful contrast arrives in quiet acceptance. The remarkably spectral, over-in-a-flash, finale is as ‘modern’ as one would expect a champion of Boulez’s, Nono’s and Stockhausen’s piano music.
To complete a notable release, Pollini is given recording quality of outstanding clarity, presence and dynamic range. His quite-audible breathing may distract some listeners; others will appreciate the human presence and this intrinsic measure of his distinct commitment.