Maurizio Pollini at Carnegie Hall – Chopin

2 Nocturnes, Op.27 – No.1 in C sharp minor & No.2 in D flat
24 Preludes, Op.28
Ballade in G minor, Op.23
Scherzo in B minor, Op.20
12 Etudes, Op.25 [selection – numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 11 & 12]

Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette

Reviewed: 18 April, 2010
Venue: Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York

Maurizio PolliniAt the age of 68, Maurizio Pollini is one of the elder statesmen among pianists. His recitals are major events, and he is one of the few classical artists today who manage to sell out a hall.

Pollini had the piano positioned almost at the edge of the stage; in combination with liberal application of the damper pedal, this often led to an abundance of resonance at the expense of clarity, especially in loud and fast passages. Dynamic contrast overall was limited, one missed really soft or hushed playing, except for the delicate opening Nocturnes.

Rather than presenting them as a set of miniatures, Pollini treated the 24 Preludes as a collection of short character studies, eschewing any hint of sentimentality or cuteness. It may even be argued that at times he went too far in the direction of interpretative understatement, as in the familiar ones in E minor or D flat. The chordal sonorities in the E major Prelude, however, were breathtaking, Pollini often tapering off the endings to great effect.

In the G minor Ballade and the B minor Scherzo, Pollini likewise opted for a more straightforward approach to the music than one often hears. There was delicacy, but no lingering; rubato, but no distortion. The Ballade had all the power one could wish for, and the Scherzo’s restatement was full of introspection.

Advancing years have done nothing to diminish Pollini’s technical powers – the octave passages in the B minor Etude were most impressive and muscular, and the ‘Revolutionary’ Etude (the last of the Opus 10 set, the first encore), went by in a blaze. Although in the F major and C minor Etudes the inner melodies tended to be overpowered by the surrounding figurations, they were similarly brilliant. There were two other encores – the Mazurka in C (the third piece of Opus 33) and, most surprisingly after such a full program, the C sharp minor Scherzo.

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