A shortish programme in terms of works chosen – a couple of Nocturnes, the Opus 49 F-minor Fantasy, and the B-minor Sonata – if longer in terms of minutes than might usually be the case, nearly sixty-five (and it could have been a few more: as referenced to the Sonata’s opening movement), given Ivo Pogorelich’s approach.
As ever he is a mix of illumination and sometimes-questionable individuality, immediately so in the C-minor Nocturne (Opus 48/1) with loud stabbed-at treble notes, rather ugly, although his touch can also be velvety smooth; and if the tempo is spacious, with shapely phrasing within, there is also fortissimo drama, if somewhat clangourous: the credited Steinway is closely balanced and rather airless (captured over several days in September last year in the Franz Liszt Concert Hall, Raiding, Austria). By contrast the E-major companion (Opus 62/2) is sensitively strummed and yields an intimate flexibility that is heartfelt, timeless, and compelling.
The Fantasy has curate’s-egg tendencies. The opening is ear-catching in its ‘once upon a time’ intimations, the whole suitably smouldering and volatile, but the march-like episode (heard twice), while good of tempo, is snatched at, with several staccatos that may be difficult to find on the page (Małcużyński is my yardstick here, Pletnev my bête noire, who makes the dubious decision to accelerate through it), yet the languorous lyrical section between those two appearances is beguilingly turned, and the highlight of the Sonata is the slow movement, for once a true Largo (check Pogorelich’s 11’30” against other versions) as well as eloquent. Elsewhere in the B-minor things are less clear-cut: the first movement is certainly Maestoso if somewhat deliberated, and the lack of the repeat becomes welcome (Pogorelich distends the exposition to five minutes), if, curiously, when heading into the development, he seems reluctant to bid the exposition farewell, although there is romantic fervour forthcoming. Plenty of quicksilver fingerwork informs the Scherzo, the Trio is a song-without-words with some dark corners; and, following the Largo, the Finale is a fiery festival of thrilling pianism. Sony Classical 19439912052.
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