Thursday, May 4, 2017

Frédéric Chopin - Polonaises (Maurizio Pollini)


Composer: Frédéric Chopin
  1. 2 Polonaises, Op. 26: No. 1 in C sharp minor
  2. 2 Polonaises, Op. 26: No. 2 in E flat minor
  3. 2 Polonaises, Op. 40: No. 1 in A major "Military"
  4. 2 Polonaises, Op. 40: No. 2 in C minor
  5. Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44
  6. Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 "Heroic"
  7. Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61

Maurizio Pollini, piano
Date: 1975
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



Here is Pollini in all his early glory, in performances expertly transferred from 1976. Shorn of all virtuoso compromise or indulgence, the majestic force of his command is indissolubly integrated with the seriousness of his heroic impulse. Never have I been compelled into such awareness of the underlying malaise beneath the outward and nationalist defiance of the Polonaises. The tension and menace at the start of No. 2 are almost palpable, its storming and disconsolate continuation made a true mirror of Poland’s clouded history. The C minor Polonaise’s denouement, too, emerges with a chilling sense of finality, and Pollini’s way with the pounding audacity commencing at 3'00'' in the epic F sharp minor Polonaise is like some ruthless prophecy of every percussive, anti-lyrical gesture to come. At 7'59'' Chopin’s flame-throwing interjections are volcanic indeed, and if there is ample poetic delicacy and compensation (notably in the Polonaise-fantaisie, always among Chopin’s most profoundly speculative masterpieces), it is the more elemental side of his genius, his ‘canons’ rather than ‘flowers’ that are made to sear and haunt the memory.

To say that Pollini is ‘cold’ (a recent jury colleague; his exact description seemed to me as blinkered as it was unprintable) is to miss the point, to show an incapacity to identify with ‘other points of view’, with possibilities that lie at the very heart of re-creation. Others may be more outwardly beguiling (Pollini is already a wide step from Rubinstein’s belle epoque elegance or Horowitz’s reminder of Russian romantic pianism at its most volatile) but Pollini’s magnificently unsettling Chopin can be as imperious and unarguable as any on record. That his performances are also deeply moving is a tribute to his unique status.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:


Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


Maurizio Pollini (born January 5, 1942 in Milan) is an Italian classical pianist. He won  the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1960. He studied with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, from whom he is said to have acquired "a precise technique and emotional restraint". His recording for EMI and, since 1971, Deutsche Grammophon, won Pollini international acclaim. While known for possessing an exceptional technique, Pollini is sometimes accused of emotional conservatism. He has conducted both opera and orchestral music, sometimes leading the orchestra from the keyboard in concertos.


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