CHOPIN Piano Sonata No. 2 Pollini 4777626

As his last couple of London recitals have demonstrated, Maurizio Pollini is on magisterial form at the moment, and this carefully planned Chopin sequence, grouping together the works of Opp 34 to 36 with Op 38, provides a document of this golden period in his playing career. He has recorded the two major works here, the second Ballade and the B flat minor Sonata before, but both of these are titanic performances, full of perfectly focused power and high-tensile lyricism . . . On this kind of form, Pollini has few pianistic peers in the world today.

As expected, the veteran pianist Pollini goes far beyond surface pleasures in this recital of popular Chopin. He¿s always deep inside the notes: haltingly tender in the Op 33 mazurkas, subtlest of dance partners for the Op 34 waltzes, limpid and furious in the second Ballade, piercingly sober in the second sonata¿s funeral march . . . these reflective performances make you cry out for more . . .

Refined accounts by Pollini that vividly illuminate Chopin's genius

His posed 'aristocratic' approach has always suited the repertoire, but this recital goes further: it proves Pollini's stature as one of the greatest Chopin players of his time. Spontaneity . . . is here in abundance: besides the grand-scale intensity of the Sonata, an intimacy pervades the disc, as if Pollini and his piano are in your room, simply demonstrating his thoughts about music with which he's spent al lifetime. His tone not only sings, but speaks with the eloquence of a great orator. The piano is closely milked . . . the sound is faithful and well balanced. Pollini's interpretation of the Ballade No. 2 presents . . . a unified concept that is deeply unsettling throughout, and convincing with it. The Mazurkas and waltzes are rendered simply, energetically and without pretension or excess; the Impromptu is unsentimental yet immensely tender. The Sonata's glories include a chilling transformation of tone in the final moments of the Funeral March and a unison finale played with such fluidity that you can barely hear the individual notes slide into one another. This disc is coming to my desert island.

[Lynn René Bayley]: . . . here he truly exceeds himself . . . this one is something special. There seems to be absolutely no mechanical obstruction between the player and the listener. I did not feel as if I were listening to a record at all; I felt the piano right in the room with me, at all dynamic levels. That, in itself, is quite an achievement.
[Michael Ullman]: . . . the new Chopin by Pollini has a warmer sound, more like what I have heard from him in the concert hall . . . One of Pollini's gifts is to make contrasts . . . seem logical as well as surprising . . . Pollini's bold technique makes pieces like the Mazurka in D dance; there's joy in the playing that I have always heard, but never so well recorded . . . I'd recommend the recording to any Chopin-liver, including those who already own Pollini's earlier recordings.

Maurizio Pollini is one of the most cerebral -- and dazzling -- pianists of all time . . . he fills concert halls wherever he plays, but it's a refined and subtle pleasure he brings . . . there's also the other side of Pollini -- the fabulously sensitive touch in Chopin, the grasp of form in Beethoven . . . Pollini's catalogue of 80-plus recordings for Deutsche Gramophon includes some wonderfully poetic Schumann, late Beethoven sonatas, and an unrivalled version of Boulez's immense, angry 2nd piano sonata. But the heart of it is his Chopin recordings. His 1985 recording of the Preludes (DG 413 7692 7) reveal the strange magic of these radical pieces, and the Etudes of 1986 (413 7942 9) are dazzling. A more recent Chopin recording from 2008 (477 7626) is worth buying just for the four Mazurkas, which are rhythmically fascinating in a way impossible to define.

Die hervorstechenden Merkmale seiner Chopin-Auffassung spiegeln sich auch in diesem Recital wieder. Entschlackt, ohne aufgesetzte Romantizismen, erklingen die Werke strukturell geradezu röntgenhaft ausgeleuchtet. Die tänzerischen Ursprünge der Mazurken und Walzer werden subtil angedeutet, bekommen dafür durch Pollinis sensible und nuancenreiche Anschlagskultur eine besonders schillernde Leuchtkraft. Wie federleicht er den schlichten Melodiebogen im Dur-Mittelteil des Trauermarschs spannt, ist ein Ereignis . . . Wer einen Chopin in lupenreiner Transparenz und Schönheit sucht, der ist bei ihm bestens aufgehoben.

. . . stets war diese lange Wegstrecke durch lyrische Noblesse, durch intellektuelle Präzision und durch kontrollierte Emotion gekennzeichnet. Da ist man doch ein wenig erstaunt, dass ein solcher analytischer Feingeist heute, mit 66 Jahren, zum emotionalen Kern von Chopins Musik zurückstrebt, ihre innere Glut, ihr enormes Gefühlspotenzial als das Wichtigste ansieht und freier, gefühlsbetonter herangehen will an seine hochdifferenzierten Strukturen. So spielt Pollini die vier tiefsinnigen Mazurken op. 33 und auch die drei Walzer op. 34 viel entspannter und gestisch flexibler als früher, und auch der Beginn der F-dur-Ballade op. 38 klingt flüssig und freundlich, fast improvisiert und sanft wogend.