CHOPIN: 19 Nocturnes – Maurizio Pollini, piano – DGG

by | May 1, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

CHOPIN: 19 Nocturnes – Maurizio Pollini, piano – DGG B000504-02,  43:45; 46:32 (Distrib. Universal) ****:

Winner of the 1960 Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Maurizio Pollini has evolved as a Chopin interpreter; perhaps his recording of the Etudes remains sine qua non for digital finesse. Auditioning these June 2005 readings of Chopin’s collection of night-pieces, we hear the subtle combination of Bellini’s bel canto style as distilled through Chopin’s idiosyncratic harmonic language. Chopin’s own ravishing color palette finds a master exponent in Pollini (granted his hard patina) in the B Major Nocturne from Op. 9 (1831).  The same mystery of color application informs the opening of the C Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 1. While the outer sections of the ABA form float, the faster and more turbulent middle section thunders over a basic pulse. In the case of Op. 27, No. 1, the impulse is to explode into an heroic polonaise. The Op. 15, No 1 has a stormy middle section which shares three-part writing principles with Schumann, although the lyric texture is spider-thread only Chopin weaves. Pollini cushions the middle section of the F Sharp Major with a veiled pedal. The G Minor from Op. 15 hovers between declamatory and arioso styles, ending with a sphinx. Sustained tracery and intimate affect make for a sublime D-flat Nocturne, competitive with Lipatti’s great reading.

It is always a question for the collector whether he wishes to maintain integral surveys of Chopin’s specialized ouevre: so we can refer to Rubinstein, Moravec, Ashkenazy, Ciani, Pires, Leonskaja and others as primary sources, along with our preferred individual takes on these masterworks. So, while I think Pollini’s F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1 extremely polished and lucid, I still prefer Cherkassky’s demure chastity. Though Pollini and Horowitz make exquisite sense of the E-flat Major, Op. 55, No. 2, none brings the suave arabesques to such rich culmination as Ignaz Friedman.  On the other hand, for Polish zal in Op. 48, No. 2, we have Rubinstein; for sheer erotic elegance in the posthumous E Minor, I always choose Horowitz. The two Nocturnes, Op. 62 (1846), along with the composer’s Barcarolle, evidence a new harmonic depth in his writing; and we gravitate to Cortot and Rubinstein for their artistic maturity in these pieces. Pollini, too, brings vision and poetry to these two intricate and knowing works, and perhaps some will claim Pollini as their idol here. Certainly the ability to sustain a singing line and to hurl a potent trill is Pollini’s. He makes us recall Furtwaengler’s dictum: “There is Bach, Beethoven–and then there is Chopin!”

— Gary Lemco

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