Maurizio Pollini reflects on the late works of Chopin [CD]

Chopin: Late Works Op. 59-64. Maurizio Pollini, piano. DG 28947961277 [54:34]. International release 27 Jan. 2017. 

Reflection informs most of the performances on the latest CD release from the great Italian pianist, Maurizio Pollini. He recently celebrated his 75th birthday, maybe the perfect time for reflection, especially with the autumnal works chosen here. But let's not forget, 'autumnal' in Chopin years is 30 to 35, young by any other standard. He died at 39 of tuberculosis. And it seems a lot of worldly stress was informing his life. A break up with George Sand, fights with her kids, money troubles and lingering illness. All affected his inspiration. 

Not that the works included have a shroud hanging over them. We have Nocturnes, Mazurkas and Waltzes. Far from it. But all the influences did have an effect. Maybe Pollini took them to heart. If his musical idol Chopin is suffering, well, then, 'maybe I should be, too'. At least as represented by his piano. 

In comparison, many of Pollini's earlier recordings (admittedly, of earlier works) have an energy, a rhythmic freedom not found on this CD. There's power here, and Pollini's vaunted, crystal clear technique. But there's still something missing. At times, he gilds the lily. Sure, the playing is patrician and elegant, but it's as if he's lost a step interpretively. On his old DG records, the repertoire flowed, shone, sparkled. Even the Minute Waltz here has a frown. 

There are some successes; the Barcarolle and the Polonaise-Fantaisie are energised by his approach and receive superb performances. But other repertoire is best served elsewhere.

The recording is another matter. Dynamic and powerful, delicate and sweet natured, and everything Chopin requires in between. The piano's timbre, with all its light and dark, is notoriously difficult to record. No problems on this DG. The hammer strikes and the sound decay are centered beautifully in the soundstage. It's an exemplary recording of a Steinway grand. 

Audiophiles, you can purchase happily for the sound, but for those who love this repertoire, look elsewhere. An odd and singular non recommendation about my favourite pianist, 


Tracklist

Barcarolle In F Sharp Major Op.60 Allegretto

Mazurka Op.59 No.1 In A Minor. Moderato

Mazurka Op.59 No.2 In A Flat Major. Allegretto

Mazurka Op.59 No.3 In F Sharp Minor. Vivace

Polonaise-fantaisie In A Flat Major Op.61 Allegro Maestoso

Nocturne Op.62 No.1 In B Major. Andante

Nocturne Op.62 No.2 In E Major. Lento

Mazurka Op.63 No.1 In B Major. Vivace

Mazurka Op.63 No.2 In F Minor. Lento

Mazurka Op.63 No.3 In C Sharp Minor. Allegretto

Valse Op.64 No.1 In D Flat Major. Molto Vivace

Valse Op.64 No.2 In C Sharp Minor. Tempo Giusto

Valse Op.64 No.3 In A Flat Major. Moderato

Mazurka In F Minor Op.posth.68 No.4 Andantino