Classical music review: Maurizio Pollini, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Maurizio Pollini has become an unpredictable, uneven performer. At his best - as he was throughout his London recital two years ago and for at least the second half of the one he gave last year - he remains a peerless artist, combining fearsome technique with aristocratic musicality and rigorous commitment. But for some years before that, his appearances here were fitful, a shadow of what one remembered from his playing in the 1970s and 80s. But if there was hope after the most recent concerts that the form of those early years had been regained, Pollini's latest recital, to a justifiably packed Festival Hall, was a disappointment. For here, he was turning the clock back not 30 years as one hoped, but just a decade, to the time when his playing seemed to aspire to nothing more than immaculate routine.

The programme - two Beethoven sonatas, Op.31 No 2 and the Appassionata Op.57, followed by Schumann's C major Fantasy and Chopin's Op.27 Nocturnes and the B flat minor Scherzo - consisted of works from the very core of his repertory, by composers on whom Pollini's reputation as one of the piano greats is founded. But though the playing occasionally sparked into life, as in the fiercely propelled coda of the Appassionata, there were too many other moments that seemed devoid of real energy or interest.

The Schumann Fantasy was the major casualty, lacking the muscular definition in the opening movement needed to set its slower interludes into relief or anything to give it a personal stamp. The central march was surprisingly leaden, with more slips in the notoriously challenging coda than I've ever heard in a Pollini recital before. A bad day at the office perhaps, but still a huge disappointment for Pollini admirers.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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