|(stock Konzerthaus photo)|
In comparison, Pollini’s performance of his signature composer Chopin (and in popular pieces like the Berceuse, Barcarolle, and Ballade Nr. 4) was more iconoclastic. Here I suppose we expect more romantic sentiment and pianistic self-indulgence in the big tunes and dramatic gestures, but like in the Schubert Pollini was not about to give any, with an introverted, dissected, and structural account even of the more thundering passages of the second Scherzo. The quieter works were where Pollini’s tightly controlled tendencies were most apparent--and this was when I sometimes wondered if his Chopin ultimately is really my style, because while I could listen to Pollini’s Hammerklavier all day I like more conventionally sweeping accounts of Chopin. But that’s a matter of personal taste, and there is no dispute of the intelligence and unique character he brought to each work.
Reception was very enthusiastic and we got three encores. First was the Nocturne in D-flat op. 27, second the least flashy Revolutionary Etude I have ever heard, and the last was, rather alarmingly, a stunning performance of the entire g minor Ballade, all approximately 10 minutes of it (my jaw may have dropped a little bit when he launched into that arpeggiated Neapolitan). Very generous.
*And more directly by the appearance of Pollini’s favorite mark of piano, a customized Fabbrini Steinway, both at this Konzerthaus recital and at Boulez and Daniel Barenboim's concert in the Musikverein (this is noteworthy, seeing a non-Bösendorfer in the Musikverein is rare). I wondered if this could actually have been the same instrument, but Google tells me that both Barenboim and Pollini are Fabbrini fans so they probably both brought their own.
Maurizio Pollini, piano. Konzerthaus, 6/6/2011. Program: Schubert, Sonata in B-flat major; Chopin, Prélude in C# op. 45; Barcarolle in F# op. 60, Ballade No. 4 op. 52; Berceuse in D-flat op. 57, Scherzo No. 2 op. 31. Encores: Chopin, Nocturne in D-flat op. 27/2; Etude “Revolutionary” op. 10/12; Ballade No. 1 in g minor op .23.