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Frederic CHOPIN
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Nocturnes - No. 4 in F, Op. 15 No. 1; No. 5 in F sharp, Op. 15 No. 2; Two Nocturnes, Op. 27. Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23. Polonaise No. 6 in A flat, Op. 53.
Maurizio Pollini (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Kletzki.
EMI Great Recordings of the Century CDM5 67548-2 [ADD] [72'59]
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Bringing together two classic HMV LPs made by a youthful Maurizio Pollini makes for a winner of a disc. Pollini's marriage of youthful impetuosity, technical perfection and an understanding of Chopin's world well beyond his then-youthful years mean that this is a very special experience indeed. That Kletzki raises the oft-maligned accompaniments in the concerto to equivalent heights (no mere apologist here) acts as a bonus.

Throughout the performance of the concerto (recorded in April 1960), Pollini's articulation is crystal clear and every chord is carefully judged. He reveals a winning lyricism in the Romanze (something many people today find lacking in his playing) and demonstrates a supreme grasp of the structure of the outer movements. The recording is warm and supportive, capturing the subtleties of both pianist and orchestra. The more one hears this performance, the more one marvels at the levels of detailed preparation which went in to it. This remains a reference recording of this work (why has he never recorded the second concerto?) as well as an object lesson in piano playing. Kletzki seems to comprehend Pollini's vision in its entirety and communicates this exactly to his orchestra.

The remaining pieces made up a solo Chopin recital and were recorded in 1968. The spontaneous vein of lyricism that so strongly marked the second movement of the concerto resurfaces in the Nocturnes; the D flat, Op. 27 No. 2 is particularly successful. Perhaps the quasi-impressionistic harmonic meanderings of the final page of this piece in particular appealed to Pollini's sense of fantasy. The G minor Ballade is close to Pollini's heart (he often uses it as an encore). Here he manages to find the elusive balance between articulating the various fast and slow sections, giving each their due expression, and yet never letting the underlying tension sag. The explosive coda is felt as a necessary release.

The performances on this disc should be returned to time and time again: they are inexhaustible and deserve to remain in the catalogue forever.


Colin Clarke

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