Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is classical music played classically, with taste, sensitivity, and deep intelligence. Pollini really is at the service of the music, an attitude that finds expression in every note he plays.
I have come to appreciate Maurizio Pollini’s Beethoven the more I listen to it. At first, I found him rather chilly, especially after reviewing Robert Silverman’s warmhearted and genial complete Beethoven sonatas on Orpheum Masters last issue. I learned through Silverman the key importance of structure and how Beethoven’s sense of structure evolved over many years. This wonderfully recorded DG CD comes with two CDs, actually. The bonus CD is taken from a recital Pollini gave in Vienna in June of 2002, in which he performed the
Beethoven op. 78 and the op. 57, the “Appassionata” Sonata. The second CD contains performances of ops. 54, 57, 78, and 90, recorded in Munich, also in June 2002. The sound of the Munich recording is much richer than the Vienna recital. You get a much more lucid sound of Pollini’s piano in the Munich CD. However, the Vienna performance takes place at a live recital, and though the performances on both CDs are almost replicas of each other, the very concluding bravura passages of his Vienna “Appassionata” are played with tremendous passion and force, a rarity in a Pollini recital. Overall, though, I find Pollini’s Beethoven becoming more human, more vulnerable. In parts of the Vienna performance, he rushes some of the more technically demanding passages, whereas the Munich performances are a little less emotionally engaging. But I found both the op. 57 and op. 90 played with a lovely tone and a gentle charm that I find rare in Pollini. His op. 57, “Appassionata,” has no hard edges, and his ability to control all the elements of this sprawling and merciless masterpiece is remarkable. He does not perform it with the massive technical display of Richter, Ernst Levy, or Serkin; his is closer to Gilels’s and Perahia’s lyrical renditions. Pollini’s Andante con moto of the op. 57 is a little matter of fact and won’t send any shivers up your spine, but his control in the last movement is truly breathtaking. His gift for building up tension in that movement comes close to Gilels’s preternatural mastery of the piece.
While Pollini’s “Appassionata” is impressive both structurally and technically, his performance of op. 90 alone is worth the price of the CD. There is a gentle charm in this music that only a great artist can bring out. His reading of the first movement uncovers why Pollini is such an impressive performer of Schubert. And his way with op. 90’s second movement is lovely, lovely, lovely. The engineers really caught the mellow but piquant tone of the Steinway Pollini uses. The movement is a classic study in limpidity, warmth, and gentleness. This is classical music played classically, with taste, sensitivity, and deep intelligence. Pollini really is at the service of the music, an attitude that finds expression in every note he plays. Highly recommended.
-- Patrick Meanor, FANFARE [11/2003]
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