Notes and Editorial Reviews
Prelude in c?,
Largo. Ballade No. 3.
Souvenir de Paganini.
Roberto Poli (pn)
PIANO 0012 (71:35)
Poli is a polymath. He paints and writes poetry. He recently published a book on musical interpretation. He conducts and plays the harpsichord. Amid all this activity, Poli finds time to be a Chopin specialist on the piano. He earned his master’s degree studying with Russell Sherman, and displays the same thoughtfulness that marks his teacher’s interpretations—although Poli sounds nothing like Sherman. On first encountering this CD, I felt Poli’s playing at times to be fussy and underpowered. Only on my third hearing did I really warm up to what Poli is doing. This is Chopin playing of considerable insight and musical erudition. Poli’s decisions appear based on a considerable knowledge of Chopin’s oeuvre. He has a light touch, which is particularly suited to Chopin; the composer, after all, was not a loud player. The program is sensitively chosen and beautifully arranged. It is advertised as “Piano Works Vol. 1,” so perhaps we may expect more to come.
Poli’s recital opens with the op. 45 Prelude. His rendition is flowing and shimmering, like a seaside painted by Seurat. In the op. 63 Mazurkas, Poli emphasizes their harmonic richness. These are peasant dances ornamented for an elite audience. The mazurkas’ rhythms are more insinuated by the pianist than made obvious. Poli was born in Venice, so he naturally includes the Barcarolle, a gondolier’s song. One can see the water shimmering in his performance. For the most part, its mood is languorous rather than dramatic. There is a foretaste of Debussy’s
The Engulfed Cathedral
. The next three selections, Cantabile,
, and Largo, all are new to me. Poli plays them with affection. In the Third Ballade, the first section has an easygoing, story-like, “once upon a time” feel. In the second section, the story becomes more involved, with the occasional crisis.
Souvenir de Paganini
is a set of variations on
Carnival of Venice
. Poli gives it a Canaletto, Italian feel, akin to sunlight glancing off a bay. The first of the op. 62 nocturnes goes very slowly. It is rich-hued and improvisatory, with time almost stopping in some passages. Chopin was a famous improviser, and Poli seems to divine something of that art form here. He presents the second nocturne as a Turneresque riot of color; it would be interesting in this regard to view Poli’s paintings. Lastly, the Fantasy has a slightly Schubertian feel, with harmonic allusions to the
. In the quiet sections, Poli takes some daringly slow tempos, but he pulls them off. The program was recorded in 2003 in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. Perhaps Poli needed some time to find a label that would release it. The sound engineering is good, although a little murky in places. Poli joins Angela Lear and Jane Coop on my list of lesser-known pianists who have turned out distinguished Chopin recitals. Granted many fine Chopin collections are available, but I think Poli’s disc repays careful study.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
Works on This Recording
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