Maurizio Pollini obituary


The Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini, who has died aged 82, was one of many giants of the keyboard within the second half of the twentieth century, and but for all of the respect he commanded, his taking part in was criticised all through his profession for being excessively cool and cerebral. When he took first prize on the 1960 Chopin competitors in Warsaw, the chairman of the jury, Artur Rubinstein, declared: “That boy performs higher than any of us jurors.” However that success proved to be solely the prelude to the primary controversial occasion of his profession. He withdrew from the worldwide live performance circuit for 18 months to broaden his repertoire and develop different cultural pursuits. It was not till almost the top of the last decade that his efficiency schedule achieved a traditional rhythm, however his full return in 1968, coinciding with a contract signed with the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) label, launched a sequence of triumphs on the live performance platform and within the recording studio.

Traditional recordings of Chopin Etudes, of music by Schumann and Beethoven, and of modernist repertoire akin to Pierre Boulez’s Second Sonata consolidated his popularity and, at its greatest, Pollini’s taking part in mixed expressive however unsentimental intimacy, tonal magnificence, textural readability and a formidable method. Significantly in his later years, Pollini’s breathless, impatient supply of Beethoven’s sonatas usually appeared to disclaim their rhetoric, as if he was embarrassed by massive romantic gestures or overt emotionalism.

Pollini’s cerebral instincts appeared to deprive him of the power to reside within the second: romantic subjectivity, it appeared, had continuously to be interrogated.

Pollini was born in Milan. His father, Gino Pollini, was one in all Italy’s main architects of the interwar interval; his mom, Renata (nee Melotti), who had studied singing and piano, was the sister of the modernist sculptor Fausto Melotti. Such a background, wherein “outdated works and trendy works co-existed collectively as a part of life”, as Pollini later put it, was to have a formative affect on his personal strategy to artwork. The invention of his musical expertise led to classes with Carlo Lonati and Carlo Vidusso (from 1955 on the Milan conservatory) and numerous competitors successes previous to Warsaw. His 1963 London debut, taking part in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the LSO underneath Colin Davis, was criticised by the Occasions as “rushed” and over-impetuous.

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Peter Andry, the accountable government at EMI within the early Sixties, instructed in his autobiography, Contained in the Recording Studio (2008), of the pursuit of the 19-year-old who had simply received the distinguished Warsaw competitors: “We shortly signed the younger Italian, a slender, bespectacled younger man with an elongated forehead however a really nice method.” Certainly one of their first (and solely) initiatives collectively was a recording of the 2 units of Chopin Etudes, Opp 10 and 25. It was not lengthy after this that Pollini appeared to undergo a disaster of confidence. EMI despatched him off to review for 2 years with the pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, however at the same time as his musicality deepened, and critiques had been usually complimentary, Pollini retreated from the highlight. He refused to permit the Etudes to be launched – although this was partly as a result of DG, shortly to signal Pollini as an unique artist, needed to make their very own model. The EMI units had been lastly launched solely in 2011 (on Testomony), profitable plaudits for his or her spontaneity and freshness.

It was additionally within the 60s that music and politics first grew to become intertwined in Pollini’s profession. A friendship with a fellow-student, Claudio Abbado, a like-minded leftwing idealist, led them to hunt radical methods of bringing classical music to manufacturing unit staff, together with a cycle of live shows at La Scala for workers and college students. One other friendship, with the Marxist avant garde composer Luigi Nono, was equally vital, ensuing within the fee of two items for Pollini, together with one for piano, voice and tapes, commemorating an assassinated Chilean revolutionary. Pollini’s radical outlook remained with him all through his profession, as did his mental strategy to artwork and life. If too usually that cerebralism appeared at odds with the heroic or passionate romantic sensibility of the music he performed, there have been compensations: the visionary gleam in a Chopin miniature; the anticipation of modernism within the ghostly finale of the identical composer’s Second Piano Sonata.

Even when declining bodily stamina took its toll in later recitals, Pollini commanded admiration of a kind for his continued willingness to pit himself towards a number of the most demanding works within the repertoire. The breathless impatience of his foreshortened phrases was unsettling, however glimpses of the outdated magic had been nonetheless in proof. The programming of his five-concert sequence The Pollini Mission on the Royal Competition Corridor, unfold over 5 months in 2011 – which moved from Bach, by means of late Beethoven and Schubert to Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Debussy to modernists akin to Stockhausen and Boulez – represented a private assertion about landmarks within the historical past of piano music.

His interpretation of Boulez’s Second Sonata, notable for its precision and explosive vitality, but additionally for its lyricism and Debussy-influenced pointillism, stays with out peer. Stravinsky’s Petrushka likewise drew from him an incomparable muscularity coupled with tonal readability that was ideally incisive reasonably than brutal. If Pollini’s taking part in was controversial, it was so as a result of it explored the dichotomy of mind and emotion basic to music-making.

He’s survived by his spouse, Marilisa (nee Marzotto), whom he married in 1968, and their son, Daniele.


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