Maurizio Pollini – review

Royal Festival Hall, London

The piano music of the post-1945 European avant garde (Boulez, Nono, Stockhausen) has long been part of Maurizio Pollini's repertoire. He has performed Boulez and Nono in London, and is including Boulez's Second Sonata in his Festival Hall retrospective next month, but in this recital he at last played Stockhausen's piano pieces here, too.

Sadly, it was not the huge Klavierstück 10, which used to be such a Pollini tour de force, but two of Stockhausen's smaller-scale pieces, Nos 7 and 9, that preceded Schumann and Chopin in this recital. Each deals with a particular aspect of keyboard writing with a finesse Pollini caught perfectly: the series of harmonics obtained by silently depressing one key while playing others in Klavierstück 7; or the great musical arc of No 9, rising steadily up the keyboard from the pounding opening to whispering, tinkling figuration that eventually evaporates altogether.

After these delicate essays, the welter of notes in Schumann's F minor sonata, the "Concerto without orchestra" Op 14, came as a shock, though Pollini's performance was far less torrential than, for instance, Horowitz's famous recording. The trees sometimes obscured the wood, though, and only in the finale did everything click into sharp focus. The Chopin sequence included the F minor Ballade, where rubato was strictly rationed and the drama fractionally underplayed, and the B flat Scherzo, a model of clarity and control. Best of all were the Barcarolle and the Berceuse, their harmonic flips and shimmies exquisitely presented with no fuss at all.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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