Release Date: 1981
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Producer: Hanno Rinke / Wolfgang Mitlehner
Recording place: Herkulessaal, Residenz, Munich
Total playing time: CD [47:26]
Copyright: © 1981 Deutsche Grammophon
— CHOPIN · RECITAL
There was a sensation at the 1980 Chopin Competition in Warsaw when, in a decision going against audience opinion, Ivo Pogorelich was not admitted to the final round because of his unconventional interpretations. This came about because of a wide discrepancy in the jury’s marking; half the panel of judges gave him the highest number of points and half the lowest. He was awarded only a special prize for his “exceptionally original pianistic talent”.
Martha Argerich resigned from the jury in protest, and the “Pogorelich Affair” made the headlines all over the world, not only on account of the sensational events at the competition, but also because it was said that Pogorelich had created a new Chopin style.
Even today our view of Chopin is distorted. Many interpreters exaggerate the light, pleasing elements in Chopin’s works, and mask deeper insights with a slack virtuoso grand manner. Wessel, one of Chopin’s publishers, included a piece by him in an anthology entitled “Diversions for the Salon” – Chopin referred to the man as a “nincompoop” and “scoundrel” – and this association still seems to hover like a curse over certain pre-conceptions about the composer’s music. It is precisely the contradictory nature and inner range of the works which Pogorelich attempts to explore. In the process he goes beyond the traditional (or better, habitual) limits of dynamics, while also exploiting techniques developed in the 20th century by composers such as Prokofiev, Ravel and Rakhmaninov. In bringing out contrasts to the full he does violence only to the sensibilities of conservative listeners, not to Chopin’s text. Pogorelich regarded the making of an all-Chopin record – on his own admission he has no “favourite composer” – as “his reply to the Warsaw competition”. The inner variety in Chopin’s works is underlined by the choice of pieces for this recording. With his Etudes op. 10 and op. 25 Chopin, then aged about twenty, set new standards in piano virtuosity. In addition to the enormous technical demands, which arc a test for any pianist, he succeeded in employing virtuosity not just as an end in itself. In the C sharp minor Scherzo (composed in 1839), the C sharp minor Prelude (1841) and the Nocturne (1843) Chopin brings other viewpoints into the foreground, transforming these musical genres with his expressive sensitivity. In the Scherzo the change to the major in the chorale-like middle section is set in relief against the outer sections in the minor by means of a close motivic interrelationship; in the Prelude the original improvisatory aspect of “forming a prelude” is enlarged into an excursion through about 30 keys; in the Nocturne the rhythmically free, songlike melody contrasts with the regular flow of the bass line. The B flat minor Sonata with its famous Funeral March (1837–39) shows how Chopin could produce a many-faceted whole even from heterogeneous types of movement. In the unison “hussar charge” of the finale he took this so far that Schumann opined: “That isn’t music.”
Ivo Pogorelich was born in Belgrade in 1958. When he was only eleven he continued his piano studies at the Central School of Music in Moscow. and five years later progressed to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. His teachers were the professors Timakhin, Gornostaeva and Malinin, from whom Pogorelich learnt, in his own words, “normal piano-playing”. The crucial influence on his development was his meeting with Alice Kezeradze, whom he married in 1980. His meteoric rise began with her teaching from 1977 onwards, which introduced him to the discoveries of the Liszt-Siloti school. In 1978 he won the Casagrande Competition in Terni (Italy) and after illness had forced him to rest for a year, he won first prize at the International Music Competition in Montreal in 1980, despite having had little time to prepare. In the same year he participated in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, which brought him no prize. …but instead fame, recognition, concert engagements and the aura of scandal” (Joachim Kaiser, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, 12 February 1981).
© Reinhard Schulz / Deutsche Grammophon