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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday February 28 2017

Every month, I purchase copies of Gramophone and of the BBC classical music magazine. The latter magazine is called “Music”, which is rather silly but there you go.

I find classical music reviewers very helpful.  I never let them make me like something I don’t like, or not like something I do like, but they often steer me towards CDs that I like a lot.  Sometimes their criticisms tell me that I would like it, and their praise often puts me off.  But whatever happens, I am provided with valuable information.

I love Chopin’s music and relish different interpretations of it.  Which means that I might yet give the latest CD from legendary pianist Maurizio Pollini a go, despite David Fanning, in the February issue of Gramophone, saying, of this CD, this:

‘I’m in love with Chopin – his music never ceases to amaze me’, Pollini is quoted as saying on the jewel case of his latest CD. If only it sounded like it. The first thing that alienates me is the sound: the bass slightly too immediate, the treble slightly muffled, the mid-register slightly woolly, the general over-pedalling. It’s almost as though we’re sitting in the page-turner’s position rather than in the audience. Then as the Barcarolle unfolds, it’s the boxed-in rhythms that are puzzling, along with the restricted colours, and the lack of sufficient dynamic range to articulate properly either the short-term gestures or the long-term structure. All of which proves characteristic of the recital as a whole.

The best construction I can put on this is that Pollini is attempting to show that late Chopin should be stripped of the usual attributes of pianistic flair and allowed to speak unencumbered by personal intervention, trusting that it will weave its own spell without all that baggage. Certainly the nocturnes, mazurkas and waltzes here sound as severe and uningratiating as the larger-scale Barcarolle and Polonaise-fantaisie. No lilt, no magic, no sense of wonder, only a few flickerings of poetry, and beyond the obvious technical fluency and control no virtues that might compensate for the losses. I confess I struggled to concentrate all the way to the end. What on earth happened to the Pollini who was something close to a god for me in my far-off student days?

Ouch.

The first reviewer of this disc at Amazon, on the other hand, gives it five stars.  And DG have found plenty of nice things (go here and click on “reviews") said about this CD by other critics.

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