Sonata in C minor, Op.10/1
Sonata in F, Op.10/2
Sonata in D, Op.10/3
Sonata in C minor, Op.13 (Pathétique)
Maurizio Pollini (piano)
Recorded September 2002 in the Herkulessaal, Munich
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: July 2004
CD No: DG 474 810-2
Duration: 70 minutes
Despite his relative reliance on past models, the three sonatas that comprise Beethoven’s Op.10 also display his creative originally, which Maurizio Pollini elucidates with single-mindedness. This latest instalment of Pollini’s slowly evolving DG Beethoven sonata cycle is deeply impressive in its focus, concentration and unvarnished truth telling.
However gruff, uncompromising, sinewy and powerful Pollini’s realisation of these sonatas is, he is also no stranger to delicacy and tenderness, to song and pathos, and his direct unfolding of lyrical slow movements is a joy. The latter is best exemplified by the Adagio cantabile of the Pathétique, which can so often be made cloying. Pollini allows it to speak for itself with eloquence. This same sonata’s first movement is rather statelier than usual, yet Pollini’s patience is an exemplar of melding grand design and mechanisms to telling effect.
Pollini’s poise, dynamic variety, subtlety of touch, precision of execution, and his heartfelt and intellectual grasp of the music, which nods to Haydn and Mozart while stretching the classical mould, holds the listener enthralled. Pollini can be witty and light too as the first movement of the F major sonata shows, which is nimbly and insouciantly championed, and the sonata’s Presto finale scampers merrily along, fleet and always articulate, the fugal lines wonderfully clear.
As part of the musical process, Pollini extrudes numerous groans, vocalises and foot-stamps; all seem complementary to his total involvement and rugged delivery. The vivid recorded sound is excellently balanced in terms of clarity and space. Other pianists – one thinks of Alfred Brendel and Richard Goode (and I have a particular regard for Jean-Bernard Pommier in this music, on Erato) – bring their own distinctiveness to these works, of course. Like them, Pollini convinces that his way is the right one.