Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op.35
Polonaise in F sharp minor Op.44
Prelude in B flat major Op.28 No.21
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.27 in E minor Op.90
Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor Op.111
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Étude Op.8 No.2
Deux Poèmes Op.32
Ivo Pogorelich (piano)
rec. at the Villa Contarini, Piazzola sul Brenta August 1987
Picture Format; NTSC 4:3, Sound Format PCM Stereo, Region Code 0
UNITEL CLASSICA DVD 701308 [101:00]

Recorded at the Villa Contarini, Piazzola sul Brenta in August 1987 this is another in Unitel’s Pogorleich DVDs. This was a near-fortnight recording project which reflected the company’s enthusiasm for the blazing new talent. Now, getting on for a quarter of a century later, it reappears as part of a series.

Camera angles are simple, clear and free of gimmicks. There are sympathetic panning shots, and the occasional admiring shots of the superb looking hall. Pogorelich is simply dressed in a black open necked shirt and his hair is, as ever in those days, luxuriantly coiffured, the 1980s equivalent of the Czech violinist Jan Kubelík at his Edwardian peak.

Pogorleich’s Chopin Sonata has massive extremes of tempo, and is extraordinary in its demonstration of distension. He presents a narrative of compelling intensity, coiled, vast, and sometimes perverse. His dominant cultivation of slow tempi is evident, as are the frequently beautifully balanced chords. Some of the playing invites a kind of suspension of disbelief, but Pogorelich is Pogorelich, and he takes the sonata to the brink of contraction, to the edge of coherence; but it is remarkable, of that there’s little doubt. His Polonaise has a massive sonority. His pedalling here and throughout is discreet but the performance tends to the exhausting.

The two Beethoven sonatas offer further evidence, as might be anticipated, of his idiosyncratic approach to the repertoire. His Op.27 is a visceral experience that really does stretch the line to past breaking point in pursuit of some mythic dichotomy in the music. The opening movement is more sostenuto ed espressione than vivacità. Op.111 is once again an example of structural and expressive extremes that fairly reflects his Beethovenian playing as a whole. Its distension is powerful, and vast, but sometimes comes at a cost of narrative coherence. There is less room for manoeuvre in this kind of thing in the Scriabin pieces and their various qualities - fluency, elegance and in the case of the D major Poème, fiery commitment - are assuredly realised.

Jonathan Woolf

Fluency, elegance and fiery commitment… see Full Review