Maurizio Pollini – Chopin
Deutsche Grammophon, 2016
The present recording brings together Chopin’s late works: the Barcarolle in F sharp major, Three Mazurkas opp. 59 and 63, a Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61, Two Nocturnes op. 62, 3 Valses op. 64 and finally a Mazurka op. posth. 68, exemplifying many kinds of compositions that the Polish composer wrote throughout his life. They are performed by pianist Maurizio Pollini, whose lifelong acquaintance with Chopin gave hope for the outcome of this recording, especially considering that some of his greatest successes are connected with performances or recordings of Chopin’s piano works. These successes are however only pale remembrances when compared with the result of this album.
The major problem is the same that affects Pollini’s latest recordings (Brahms and Debussy), where it seems that the pianist has lost his touch. The best part of the Chopin recording is constituted by the marvellous colours that Pollini is able to find. These colours, with their shimmering, silvery quality, are precisely what saves this recording from disaster and initially it is really a pleasure to listen to them. However, when you start thinking about a guiding thread, about the purpose for which these nuances are used and about their meaning, you realize that there is no illuminating unity.
Pollini plays with remarkable skill, but inspiration is somehow lost. Even though the flow of music is superficially so rich, it drifts rather than converging in one direction. There is no focus and the musical phrases follow one another disjointedly. This situation is hardly endurable in the Mazurkas and Valses, while the Barcarolle and the Polonaise-Fantaisie are dull and inconclusive. It is really difficult to keep attention and, at the end of each piece, there is more perplexity that approval for what you have just heard.