Great Pianists Of The 20th Century - Vol. 78

Album cover art for upc 028945693729
Label: PHILIPS
Catalog: 4569372
Format: CD

Maurizio Pollini - Piano

When Maurizio Pollini took first prize in the 1960 Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw at age 18, the redoubtable Artur Rubinstein observed that "technically, he already plays better than any of us in the jury." Yet supplied with that foundation of a technique as solid as granite, Pollini is at the furthest remove from the superficial virtuoso showman. The intellectual's dream pianist, he is best known as the exemplar of an objective analytical acumen--similar in approach to Pierre Boulez--that is applied to an astonishing range of repertory, thanks to Pollini's catholicity of musical interests. In his hands, the piano seems to become a kind of laboratory for scientific investigation. Consider how Pollini pursues his goal of "maximum clarity" here in works as diverse as Webern's Op. 27 Piano Variations, the selections from Debussy's √Čtudes, or the Schumann Arabeske (the last being one of Horowitz's most felicitous specialties). Although some detractors find a chilly absence of personality, Pollini's expression of the poetic intensity in Schubert's Drei Klavierst√ľcke or Schumann's Piano Sonata No. 1 cuts to the heart of the early romantics, tottering on the edge with visionary concentration. His magnificent account of Liszt's B Minor Sonata leaves countless others in the dust, mapping out its larger structural edifice with an assured mastery that is one of Pollini's hallmarks (his father was, in fact, one of the leading Italian modernist architects of his day). And for sheer jaw-dropping pianism, listen to the orchestral trompe l'oreille Pollini achieves in the transcribed excerpts from Stravinsky's Petrouschka. --Thomas May

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