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Ivo Pogorelich Recital
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

English Suite No.2 in A minor BWV807 [23.22]
English Suite No.3 in G minor BWV808 [25.16]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1785-1757)

Sonata in D minor K1 [2.30]
Sonata in E major K20 [3.31]
Sonata in E minor K98 [3.32]
Sonata in C major K159 [2.54]
Sonata in G minor K450 [3.37]
Sonata in C major K487 [4.09]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No.11 in B flat major Op.22 [32.21]
Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59 Für Elise [3.43]
Ivo Pogorelich (piano)
Recorded at the Palazzo Palladiana di Caldogno, Nordera near Vincenza, October 1986 (Bach), Schloss Eckartsau, near Vienna, January 1987 (Scarlatti, Beethoven)
Picture Format NTSC Colour 4;3, region Code 0; Sound Formats PCM Stereo DTS 5;1; Menu Language, English
Directed by Humphrey Burton; Executive Producer: Horant H Hohlfeld.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON UNITEL DVD 073 4045 [107:00]

 

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 output.

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.

Jonathan Woolf

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