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Maurizio Pollini at 72

Symphony Hall
10/05/2014 -  
Robert Schumann: Arabeske, opus 18 – Kreisleriana, opus 16
Frédéric Chopin: Sonata n° 2, opus 35, Berceuse, opus 57 – Polonaise n° 6, opus 53 “Heroic”

Maurizio Pollini (piano)

M. Pollini (© Robert Torres)

At 72, Maurizio Pollini is showing some signs of his age. His programs may have become a little bit shorter and it could be said that while his repertory is huge, he now focuses on a small number of core pieces. At the keyboard, some of the fast passages that used to be laser sharp now show strain and for the first times, a couple of wrong notes appear here and there. But at this best, Pollini remains supreme.

Pollini’s first half was devoted to Robert Schumann. While he excelled at the cantabile and the polyphonic passages required by the composer, some of the demanding passages were too fast. The once laser sharpness that characterized his playing in his youth is no longer present. Kreisleriana’s opening Aussert Bewegt (Molto Agitato) and Sehr Aufgeregt (Molto Vivo) were somewhat blurry, Pollini’s once magical use of the sustaining pedal being not what it used to be. Polllini may have felt that the demonic side of Schumann did required such daring tempi but he pushed a little too hard.

The second half found Pollini back in Chopin’s music in which his mastery is unrivalled. The Second Sonata was passionate with no misplaced sentimentality. Pollini’s sense of architecture and drama made everyone realize how rich and complex this work really is. The beauty of the singing line of the slow movement was pure Italian Bel Canto’s music while the last movement had a Scriabine-like daring edge. Under his hands, the Berceuse achieved a nice balance between the pulsation at the left hand and a dancing singing right one with daring harmonies. The Polonaise opus 53 was dashing and Pollini’s octave should be required study for all pianists worldwide.

Pollini got standing ovations from a Symphony Hall at near full capacity. True to his habits, Pollini gave two of his classic encores, the Nocturne op 27 n° 2 and a stunning Scherzo opus 39. Pollini may be 72 but when he is at his best, he is the same Pollini we have heard for the last fifty years.

This concert was the opening season of the ambitious Celebrity Series of Boston who have prepared a varied program of dance, jazz and classical music. Younger pianists will visit Symphony Hall like Daniil Trifonov, Richard Goode and Leif Ove Andsnes. Renée Fleming will come for a recital and so will Anne Sofie von Otter accompanied by no less than Angela Hewitt. The San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas and the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Riccardo Chailly will visit Symphony Hall. Three America’s most famous string quartet, the Julliard and the Emerson as well as the Simon Bolivar will mix modern and classic repertoire. Many reasons to visit Boston’s concert halls.

The Celebrity Series of Boston

Antoine Leboyer



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