samedi 12 décembre 2009

Pollini plays Bach

My latest musical purchase is Maurizo Pollini's reading of The first book of the Well-Tempered Klavier of Bach. This is the work for which I have to confess having felt more respect than love, either on record with Richter or on concert with Barenboim. This is not so with Pollini whom I heard play this work in Paris in June and whose reading exploits all the capabilities of the modern piano to color tones and voices, thereby linking this work with much of the pianistic litterature to come. While we are being definitely in the world of Bach, coloring, cantabile or pianistic writing makes us realise how the WTC could influence the likes of Beethoven in his late works, Schubert and Brahms.

Piano versus cembalo is a classic question in Bach. The Classic criteria are usually on the instruments dynamics and the fact that all notes are "equal" at the cembalo. Pollini brings in many pieces a quasi orchestral view of the pieces. Listen to the prelude in B minor where the left hand is a Bass Continuo like while the two voices at the right hand could be a dialogue of woodwinds and strings.A cembalo would not bring this capability to architecture the pieces. Pollini has worked on choral baroque pieces in his many declinations of the Pollini Progetto and their influences are present through the recording.

Beyond the sheer beauty of the playing,  it is not the first time that the Italian Pianist makes us aware of musical influences between composers. One vivid memory which I have from a concert in 2002 at the Cité de la musique was a first part where he played Stockhausen Klavierstucke, followed by Webern variations op 27 and then Brahms op 116. The similarity of density in the orchestral piano writing of both Stockhausen and Brahms were revealing. Better, it highlighted why the white-colored writing of Webern is so uniquely modern.

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