jeudi 1 décembre 2011

Maurizio Pollini's EMI recordings of Chopin studies

I read Peter Andry's memoirs after hearing about them on Bob Shingleton's excellent blog. This EMI producer can be credited to have overseen some of the label greatest successes (which may be a thing of the past but this is another topic).

One of the side stories he tells was EMI's decision to sever relations with Maurizo Pollini. EMI had signed the Italian pianist after his success at the Chopin piano competition in 1961. He went on to record Chopin's first concerto, a reading that is just marvellous, a recital of various pieces but left this recording in the vault of EMI waiting, I am assuming, that copyright laws would allow for it to be reissued.

The booklet is unapologetic on the fact that EMI and Pollini could not find common ground. They acknowledge that not continuing with him was a huge mistake, financially as well as artistically but hint at the pianist being in a state of doubt which did not allowed him to complete this project.

We all know that Pollini signed with DG after, that the studies was one of his first recordings with them and remains simply unsurpassed, the pianist not only able to master the momnumental challenges of the work but much more importantly, able to bring aristocratic phrasing and poetic feeling., being the Pollini that we have all learned to love in the concert hall.

I have just heard the EMI set only once but wanted to stress out the following: playing is amazing but the subsequent set bring out playing similar to what I have experienced from Pollini in the concert hall when he has played these works as regular encores. I am aware that citical acclaim in various newspapers has been stellar so I may end up in a minority of those maintaining allegiance to the classic set.

Probably here the real issue remains on the vailidity of such documents. On the one hand, studio recordings benefit from the artists approval buton the other hand, we know of many cases where they can be revealing. Pollini is not a pianist who has made many interviews so we may never hear what he feels on this set.

Pollini was the pianist that my generation looked upon when we were discovering music. I remember foundly hearing for the first time the great masterworks when he came to play them. I am a huge fan and was keen on hearing this document. However, this remains a document of an artist who knew what he was doing when he did not accepted this set to be published.

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