WORKS: The legendary Moscow recordings, 1958 & 1961: works by Prokofiev, Bach, Menotti, Beethoven, Chopin,
PERFORMER: Daniel Pollack (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1133 (distr. +1 310 831 1322; www.cambriamus.com) ADD mono Reissue (1958, 1961)
This disc is at once an intriguing slice of 20th-century pianistic history and a source of considerable interest and enjoyment. Daniel Pollack – pupil of Rosina Lhévinne and Wilhelm Kempff, currently professor of piano at the University of Southern California, and a recent performer on Naxos’s admired disc of Barber’s piano music – was a prizewinner at the 1958 Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, the one at which, of course, his fellow American Van Cliburn was the victor.
In a warmly written booklet essay Pollack relates how the Russians took him to their hearts: a long-standing, still-active relationship with Russian audiences was born. Prokofiev’s Third and Seventh Piano Sonatas and Chopin’s C sharp minor Nocturne date from the period of the competition, the rest from a visit to Moscow three years later. All show that the young Pollack was a live-wire artist.
The brilliance of his Prokofiev readings is as much a matter of intellectual control as stamina, speed and dramatic instinct – the No. 7 finale is as forceful as any I’ve heard – and the same qualities differently manifested mark his Bach (Toccata and Fugue, BWV 914). In music calling for fine-spun cantabile, the Chopin Berceuse above all, artistic limitations become more evident (perhaps because in such pieces the shortcomings of the narrow-bore recordings are exposed). Altogether, though, it’s not just pianophiles who will find a great deal worth exploring on this disc. Max Loppert