Maurizio Pollini’s recital had a somewhat unusual program, with Schubert featured in the first half before Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations commanded our attention after the break.
It was indeed a great pleasure to hear the piano played properly again—he could have played scales and still enraptured the crowd. The level of artistry was much more satisfying than the recent Mendelssohn concerto (cross-reference below).
Curiously, I was not drawn to the trio of Schubert pieces which served as the appetizer—it was just a pleasant experience to be in the room with them [Note: how times change, thanks to my subsequent appreciation of this repertoire almost singlehandedly due to Alfred Brendel’s magical skills: cross reference below.]
The Wanderer Fantasy was exquisite, soothing my tired cranium after the intensity of translating an interview with Rafael Kubelik that appeared in the local press.
However, after intermission Pollini delivered a totally engaging performance of the Variations that swept away whatever mental cobwebs remained. The music was performed with an overall concept that wove the disparate parts into a magnificent whole, fuelled by an incredible sense of structure and the all-too-rare understanding of the harmonic implications that lurk so intriguingly in virtually every bar.
The audience went wild and demanded an encore. It was obvious from his fatigued visage that the pianist would have happily foregone even one extra note, but festival “etiquette” forced him back to the keyboard for a short, melancholic adieu. My friends further speculated that he just made up the entire piece on the spot. Nonetheless, it was a night to savour. JWR