Chopin: Preludes & Mazurkas
A Chopin recital from a ‘grand master’ like Maurizio Pollini is always a grand statement, and this disc contains many joys, even revelations. Yet at times it is also an oddly mixed experience.
It is now more than 52 years since Pollini, aged 18, carried off the honours at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. In some ways, he hasn’t changed a bit. His sense of phrasing, structure and pacing is undimmed: in both the Op. 27 Nocturnes, for instance, the way he allows the narrative to evolve and transform is supremely wise and sophisticated. Tone quality is often exquisite – the D flat major Prelude (the ‘Raindrop’) is probably the loveliest rendering of it I can think of. There are other accounts of the 24 Preludes that are more impassioned, more vividly imagined and coloured, but few are more pure or devoted. Recorded sound is excellent.
The fingers are not entirely all they used to be in terms of nimbleness, but that isn’t too intrusive. What does upset the apple cart a little, though, is an occasional impression of excess haste. Notably, in the B flat minor Scherzo Pollini persistently cuts short the rest between the main theme’s sotto voce, flickering, first motif and the outburst of the second one. This quirk has a malign effect on the flow of the whole piece.