Chopin: Nocturnes Op. 55; Mazurkas Op. 56; Berceuse Op. 57; Sonata Op. 58

Maurizio Pollini

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Chopin: Nocturnes Op. 55; Mazurkas Op. 56; Berceuse Op. 57; Sonata Op. 58 Review

by James Manheim

The concept of Maurizio Pollini's latest Chopin recital albums has been chronological presentation of Chopin's works. Superficially this may seem dull, especially inasmuch as Chopin's output does not fall as easily into early-middle-late categories as that of most other composers. But Pollini's implicit point (made explicit by annotator Paolo Petazzi) is that this is how Chopin himself would often have put together his recital programs: he would have played his latest stuff. Within that framework, he would have varied his moods considerably. That's the hallmark of the latest Pollini: there isn't one "Pollini style" here. The opening Nocturnes, Op. 55, are intimate and emotional, whereas the Berceuse, Op. 57, is classic restrained Pollini. Sample this work, which is often sentimentalized in line with its "Cradle Song" title. But Chopin didn't call it a berceuse; he gave it the title Variantes, which is both original and abstract, and Pollini's remarkable performance catches these qualities. For the Piano Sonata in B minor, Op. 58, Pollini backs out of the inward world he has created up to that point and turns on the gas (and, it should be noted, the humming along). The end result is an absorbing, constantly changing program that is enhanced by flawless sound engineering from Deutsche Grammophon at the Herkulessaal in Munich. Wonderful Chopin, much more than a "for Pollini fans" release.

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