Maurizio Pollini

Bartók: Piano Concertos 1 & 2

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AllMusic Review by James Leonard

Want to know what the two smartest musicians in Italy think of Bartók's first two piano concertos? Try this disc. With Maurizio Pollini at the piano and Claudio Abbado on the podium, the Hungarian modernist's concertos have never sounded so brilliant. Recorded in transparent stereo for Deutsche Grammophon in 1977, Pollini and Abbado's Bartók with the Chicago Symphony is searingly translucent in orchestrations that favor the winds, brass, and percussion over the strings and piano writing that encourages shock and awe virtuosity. But at the core of Pollini and Abbado's wholly unified interpretations is their essential musicality, and no matter how intellectual the performances, they always dance in their opening movements, sing in their central movements, and get deep down in the groove in their closing movements. With the spectacular playing of the CSO, this disc belongs in every collection dedicated to musical modernism, and as a bonus, it includes Abbado and the London Symphony's 1983 digital recording of Bartók's early Two Portraits for violin and orchestra with sweet-toned, sure-footed soloist Shlomo Mintz.

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