Chopin
Barcarolle, Op.60
Three Mazurkas, Op.59 – in A-minor; in A-flat; in F-sharp minor
Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op.61
Two Nocturnes, Op.62 – in B; in E
Three Mazurkas, Op.63 – in B; in F-minor; in C-sharp minor
Three Waltzes, Op.64 – in D-flat; in C-sharp minor; in A-flat
Mazurka in F-minor, Op.68/4
Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Recorded May & September 2015 and May 2016 in Herkulessaal, Munich
CD No: DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON
479 6127
Duration: 55 minutes
Reviewed: December 2017

Ignore the relatively short-measure total time and concentrate on the gold that Maurizio Pollini mines in this selection of Late Works by Chopin, composed between 1845 and his final year of life, 1849, dead aged thirty-nine.

Pollini, explicitly recorded but with air around the instrument, opens with an aristocratic account of the Barcarolle (Chopin at his greatest) and continues with the Opus 59 Mazurkas, from which the A-flat is especially wistful (its endearing melody shaped perfectly) whereas the F-sharp minor is fiery, its knotty decorations made lucid.

There follows the expansive Polonaise-Fantaisie, magisterial and intimate from the off, then Pollini dips in and out of the music’s foreground and background with a surety of approach that underlines both its wholeness and its caprice, and with particular regard for soulfulness. After which the two Opus 62 Nocturnes tease the ear with their unexpected harmonic departures, and what articulate trills from Pollini during the B-major example, and what depth he reveals in the E-major.

Further Mazurkas, the Opus 63 set, include the sanguine B-major, the melancholic F-minor, and the bittersweet C-sharp minor, all of these moods encompassed by Pollini, similarly in the triptych of Waltzes Opus 64, opening with the so-called ‘Minute’ Waltz, surely meaning small rather than duration – Pollini, no slouch, takes 1’40” over the signature-tune for BBC Radio 4’s celebrated Just a Minute programme, Nicholas Parsons the only chairman in its fifty-year span. The remaining Waltzes of this set include the introspective C-sharp minor and the whimsical A-flat, the latter a delight from Pollini’s fleet fingers.

It’s a Mazurka that has the final musical expression here, an unfinished farewell (Chopin physically unable to put pen to paper), this F-minor instance sad and spare, handled with sensitivity by the wide-ranging Pollini, the champion of cutting-edge twentieth-century piano literature (Boulez, Nono, Stockhausen), and to this distinguished pianist the last word: "I’m in love with Chopin – his music never ceases to amaze me."

 

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