An appointment with Maurizio Pollini in Spain at this point is an event. It should not be missed because at his 79 years ―the 80 next January 5 – it may be the last before the withdrawal arrives. The pandemic, far from shocking him, has motivated him. “Fortunately I have gone through this horrible time without problems and I feel good,” he says. He has worked thoroughly: “Methodically, with extreme regularity …”, says the pianist in a telephone conversation from his home in Milan. And now he has returned to the stage. The day 20 plays at the National Auditorium in Madrid, within the cycle Great Interpreters by Scherzo and the 27 at the Palau de Barcelona, within the program de Ibercamera.
The last time he passed through Madrid he left an example of dignity and excellence. He played a double program for Chopin and Debussy. The public who saw it still remembers how the Berceuse op 57 or Chopin’s Scherzo op 39 challenged him and almost Every step of winning your pulse. They are pieces that require a physical vigor that is not always preserved after 70 years. So the master had 77. But Pollini’s determination tamed them using a gladiator’s method. The second part was something else. With Debussy’s Preludes magic arose and wisdom commanded. It made a difference and that anguish that was noted with Chopin among the public dissipated. It was an art lesson combined with pride and fragility only available to the very old.
This time it promises something similar. Pollini does not relax. He continues to challenge himself as he has throughout his impressive career. For the program, he has chosen no less than Arnold Schönberg and Luigi Nono in the first part and Chopin, again, to top it off. In the case of the second, Pollini faces Sofferte onde serene , the work for the solo instrument that Nono composed for him. He could not prevent nostalgia from appearing a bit when programming it: “We lived through so many extraordinary things… I met him in the sixties, we became friends and I had the audacity to ask him to compose something for the instrument. He had just finished his opera Al gran sole carico d’amore, complex and with great orchestration. Without a doubt, he enjoyed these meditative, lyrical pieces, of great intensity in contrast to what he had in hand at that moment ”, comments Pollini.
It was not the only time they collaborated. The pianist was part of the trio that with Nono and Claudio Abbado went out to perform music in Reggio Emilia squares and factories in Lombardy. From there came another work by the Italian composer for orchestra, soprano and piano that Abbado and Pollini tackled. We speak of Like a wave of force and light. The title was put by the composer in Spanish. The work is dedicated to the revolutionary Luciano Cruz, whom Nono had met some time before in Santiago de Chile and who had died.
All three were strongly committed to the left at that time. Nono was a member of the Italian Communist Party and considered music as a fighting weapon. Abbado also and he made it clear when he was musical director of La Scala between 1969 and 1986. “He did groundbreaking programs and carried out wonderful, very risky initiatives. Of those that are not seen now, but that should serve as an example for those in charge of theaters and auditoriums in the future ”, says Pollini. He doubled the bet for the break that was presupposed. “He always went to more and the public followed him. To the complete cycles of Mahler or Bruckner he usually added Schönberg, Bartok or Stravinsky and also the post-war groundbreaking generation. It opened the mentality of those who came to La Scala in a way that I don’t feel now. ”
Do you mean that today you do not find that good disposition of the public of then and you see it more conservative? “I don’t think the public has become more conservative, either. What I don’t want to happen is for that attitude to decline when it returns to normal. ”
As his vision of Chopin does not decline. Pollini has lectured in it, with all his recorded work, as he has done with Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms or Schumann. He is the contemporary ace of piano romanticism. In the program that he brings to Spain, he carries the Funeral March of the Polish. A summit and a piece that as time progresses, the interpreter breaks down between serenity and trembling. “I have a very close relationship with Chopin. Changing and different from the one at the beginning of my career. Today I feel closer to him, much closer, I understand him better than years ago. I couldn’t tell you how much or why ”, he comments.
For Pollini, Chopin’s music does not hide a single latent meaning. “He thought that each work should contain a mysterious ingredient in an essential way and, at the same time, alive. Naturally he never wanted to reveal it and that is why it is presented to us today with such intensity ”. He revolutionized form, changed the course of music forever, and raised suspense and appeal to make the piano the king of instrument. “Chopin creeks, he possesses an immortal force that he preserves. The shape of it is key to understanding that. He tried, explored and reinvented them all. There are many controversial opinions about what he did. Many did not appreciate them for radically escaping from the classic molds. He transformed them and then no one has changed them as radically and convincingly as he built them. The funeral march in this second sonata gives us an idea of that. ”
He prevails among the public and the following generations of performers still as the most programmed composer in piano recitals. New generations who hardly come to ask Pollini for advice. “They rarely consult me and ask for my advice, but I would be happy to assist and help them,” says the teacher. It would be as natural to him as he did in his youth with his references. He established an intense relationship with Arthur Rubinstein, and more occasionally with Vladimir Horowitz or Benedetti Michelangeli, three aces of his time. “I had a very strong relationship with Rubinstein. I met him and he was always very nice. I visited him in Paris every time he went to the city. With Horowitz, whom I treated less, we had long very interesting conversations about the Italian composers that he liked, like Clementi or Scarlatti. As for Benedetti Michelangeli, who was a great-willed and very generous musician, he was more difficult than the other two. He spoke little. ”
Among those who follow him, Pollini mainly highlights one:“ Evgeny Kissin ”. “It’s formidable. And there are many with an overwhelming technique, which leaves you dumbfounded many times. But maybe now they have it more difficult than us because of the competition that exists. ”
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