Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Review 10: Ivo Pogorelich Plays Chopin's Preludes

Chopin in Arresting Definition - A review of Frédéric Chopin's Preludes as performed and recorded by Ivo Pogorelich

Prior to purchasing this album I had some familiarity with Pollini and Argerich's established takes as well as that of Rafal Blechacz available in the Deutsche Grammophon Complete Chopin Edition. 

I looked to new pastures for the simple reason that I was unhappy with these three performances. The Pollini recording's main fault is that the volume is too low and the sound quality in my opinion leaves something to be desired. 

I never enjoyed Argerich's Preludes as I found the tempi too quick and that, partly as a result, the playing lacked definition and clarity of intent.

Rafal Blechacz's interpretation is solid and faithful but lacks transcendental value, being of a prosaic nature. 

So having searched for the Chopin Preludes on Amazon I came across this album and I was convinced this was my set the moment I sampled the sheer originality and pianistic definition of the first prelude in C major (my favourite).

And from there on out the album never lets up. The most adequate adjective to describe this cycle is that it is arresting, i.e., attention catching. 

This underrated quality is partly due to the high pianistic definition of each prelude obtained through minimal use of the pedal, extremely dexterous finger work and tempi that for me do each prelude aural justice.

Moreover, this is the first time that I've enjoyed listening to op.28 as a whole rather than as a collection of disparate pieces, rather like Gould's 1981 take of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Again, as so often, I part company with the fogeys chez Gramophone who claim that the tempi in the more ponderous preludes are too slow, e.g. in the case of 'Raindrop'.

They also make the case that Pogorelich is trying to be original for its own sake, betraying Chopin in the process.

What nonsense! It is precisely the originality and deliberate tempi that made this work op.28 in its entirely finally grab my full attention and musical imagination whereas prior to this set I just could not get into the whole 24 piece work as a whole and as a unit. 

Now it may be true that Pogo, as he is sometimes called, did not always succeed in his interpretations in other recordings but in the case of these Preludes he nails them with commanding artistic and technical authority. 

I never thought there'd be a day I'd enjoy Chopin as much as this, being more persuaded by Baroque and Classical composers like Bach, Scarlatti and Haydn. 

I was wrong. Chopin has come to reveal his greatness at long last, after years of trying but failing, thanks to Pogorelich's arresting interpretative performance.

I cannot praise this recording more than that.