Francesco Pollini, born in Ljubljana, was a student of Mozart and the dedicatee of La sonnambula; the slow movements in the pieces on this disc are interesting as examples of the ways vocal melodism could be transferred to the keyboard in the generation before Chopin (who greatly admired Bellini). Pollini was best known in his own time for a strong-selling piano method used by both professionals and amateurs, and the music here is not of an especially virtuosic cast. The two sonatas in the middle of the program were part of a set intended to capitalize on Pollini's Metodo, published in 1811, and even the variation sets on the outside don't contain anything the average amateur, then as now, couldn't handle. Instead the music illustrates Pollini's emphasis on cantabile playing -- he even proposed that music should be notated on three staves so as to have the melody appear separately -- and other forms of articulation. There's nothing terribly compelling about any of it, but this recording, like others released by the Tactus label, fills a gap in the discography of Italian music. The period fortepiano employed is the most distinctive thing on the album. A Triestine instrument, it's noisy and clunky, with an odd buzz effect in the lower register in one of the variations of the Variazioni e Toccata, Op. 53 -- perhaps it's produced by a keyboard shift, but the notes pertaining to the instrument are only in Italian, and even those who read that language will find the text squeezed almost beyond recognition. (Note to Tactus management: the average teenager tends to have decent design skills these days, at least better than those of the designers you have been using.) The final toccata in that work is colorful, and it's something of a compendium of piano techniques of the day -- something certainly of interest to those fascinated by the history of keyboard instruments. Sound is boxy to the point where it interferes with the listener's ability to divine the timbres of the old instrument involved.
Pollini: Capriccio; Sonate; Variazioni e Toccata Review
by James Manheim
|Capriccio su "I Pretendenti delusi", for piano, Op. 28|
|Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 26/3|
|Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 26/6|
|Variazioni e Toccata for piano, Op. 53|