Maurizio Pollini – review

Royal Festival Hall, London

Having paid his respects to Bach in the opening programme, Maurizio Pollini's five-recital odyssey through the piano literature moved on to the 19th century, and to the works that form the core of his repertoire. This month's two Pollini Project concerts are devoted to Beethoven and Schubert, and to each composer's last trilogy of sonatas.

There had been a sense of routine to his playing in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier last month, but all trace of that was gone in Beethoven's Opp 109, 110 and 111, played without an interval. This was Pollini at his most formidable: technically immaculate in a matter-of-fact way, rigorously intellectual without ever seeming self-conscious.

There were just moments in the first two sonatas when that matter-of-factness threatened to become brusque: the exquisite opening of the E major Sonata Op 109, direct and crystalline rather than poetically pearly; or the first movement of the A flat, Op 110, which did not give each phrase enough space to breathe. Yet in both cases it became clear Pollini had conceived each sonata as a single evolving musical organism, in which every detail led with total logic toward the utterly different finales – the variations of Op 109 and the glorious fugue of Op 110.

That same architectural certainty was stamped upon the C minor Sonata, Op 111. Other pianists make the first movement more torrential than did Pollini, who kept its fury under control; some bring greater extremes to the finale. Instead, this performance brought out its simmering undercurrents, the glinting colours, the swirling detail. A majestic, peerless performance.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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