Happy 70th to a master
In an era so loaded with outstanding pianists that a radio programmer despairs of giving each adequate attention, a few command immediate air-time for every note. One of them celebrates his 70th birthday today, and will be heard three times in WFCR's classical music.
Milan native Maurizio Pollini came to widespread attention at 18 in 1960 when he won the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. But rather than following this victory with a fast-paced schedule, as have many pianists, sometimes to the detriment of their artistic development, Pollini continued his studies with the brilliant if elusive Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (whose birthday is also today, and whom we'll hear playing Debussy this morning) and proceeded slowly and carefully through his twenties. Then, in 1971, he made the first of his acclaimed recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, a pairing of Stravinsky's "Three Pieces from Petrushka" and Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7 whose staggering display of keyboard color and agility left pianophiles speechless.
What has followed is one of the most significant discographies in history, a record of an artist whose total command of the keyboard allows him to clarify the most complex piano writing, while his penetrating intellect and Apollonian control, if anything, intensify the emotional impact of the music. Perhaps that sounds paradoxical in words. But listen to the Chopin Etudes and Brahms Concerto No. 1 coming up today on WFCR, and hear what I mean.
A select Pollini discography (all Deutsche Grammophon):
Bártok: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (with Claudio Abbado and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden)