Shot with simplicity
and gimmick-free acuity these two recitals
were filmed early in Pogorelich’s career.
Both took place in palatial surroundings,
the pianist casually dressed, alone.
And both find him exuding the concentrated
stillness that was so much a feature
of such performances, despite his reputation
for wilfulness and eccentricity. He
was twenty-eight at the time, seemingly
infallible and playing the repertoire
that made his DG recordings of the time
so important a feature of that company’s
Camera shots are discreet,
simple and practical. Many are from
Pogorelich’s right, directed at the
keyboard, though there are multiple
angles employed, including the left
of the keyboard and face on. On one
occasion in one of the English Suites
there’s a cut from right to left hand
to demonstrate the rapidity of articulation
but that’s the only time this is done.
There are no tracking shots and only
one zoom; call this old fashioned if
you will. I call it sane. Each movement
of the Bach Suites is introduced by
the expedient of superimposing its indication
– Gigue, Courante etc - in Bach’s own
hand, taken from the manuscripts, which
is as interactive as it gets, mercifully.
When we move from the Palazzo Palladiana
di Caldogno in Nordera to Schloss Eckartsau
near Vienna we find a room that, however
beautiful decoratively, is slightly
more resonant than the crisper clarity
possessed by the Italian room. The former
is used for the Bach, the latter for
Scarlatti and Beethoven. The camera
work allows unimpeded and long opportunities
to observe Pogorelich’s mechanism in
action; the movement of forearm and
wrist, the Horowitz-like curl of fingertips
into palms, the gradations of weight;
also to observe his pedalling. Each
shot is held and there are no distracting
transitions or superimpositions, much
less segues. All this is valuable.
As for Pogorelich himself,
his Bach is warm, unidiosyncratic; he
takes repeats, maintains expressive
weight but also a sense of direction.
The playing is purely pianistic, unmannered,
well scaled and commits no solecisms.
It’s devoted Bach playing, technically
assured and communicative. He doubtless
took a leaf out of Horowitz’s book for
the Scarlatti selection but his playing
lacks the impish outrage of the Russian.
Note his effortless trills in the C
major. He has selected one of the least
well known of the Beethoven sonatas,
the B flat major Op.22. Fortunately
we can see in semi-long shot details
of his pedalling and the increasing
physicality with which Pogorelich responds
to the music; he even makes a half sideways
sway, which is exceptionally unusual
for him. Für Elise is the encore.
As for the bonus features
there is a small photo gallery of the
pianist, a discography, catalogue of
DG discs, a trailer for a forthcoming
operatic release and links to a website.
Pretty basic in other words. I wouldn’t
worry about the booklet, which promotes
the battle between pianist and instrument
as one analogous to T’ai Chi (where
do they dredge up these booklet writers?)
but concentrate on the music-making
and the simplicity and directness with
which it’s presented.
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