The return of the rebel..Pogorelich is back in town

The return of the rebel-Pogorelich is back in town
Warming up…..Pogorelich is back in town………
It was very interesting to be able to hear Pogorelich again after his disastrous recital in London three years ago.
A renowned critic who was one of the few to remain to the bitter end (most fled in the interval) declared it to be the worst concert he had ever heard in the Festival Hall.
Pogorelich has always been a controversial figure from that moment when he was eliminated from the first round of the Chopin competition and Martha Argerich resigned, quite rightly,in disgust.
‘Cause célèbre’ indeed.
He has never fitted into any convenient box but the most notable thing today was that whatever he did- and he did a lot of unusual things- he played with a beauty of sound and with an obvious love of teasing magical sounds out of the piano just as that other enigmatic figure De Pachmann might have done at the turn of last century.
Pogorelich far from being a revolutionary has become a historic figure of the past……………….
He appeared on the vast stage of the S.Ceclia auditorium in his glad rags to warm up as the public entered the hall ……..
He returned at the start of the concert looking like the Richter we had known in his Indian Summer, who also chose to play with the score .

Pogorelich looking ever like Richter
I well remember Vlado Perlemuter telling me that DG had sent a demo recording of his Ravel for approval and consideration.
Hoping for some words from a historic figure who had studied Ravel’s works with the composer.
Vlado simply replied “Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça”!
Fou Ts’ong was playing in my theatre for our Euromusica series the day after Pogorelich was being promoted in the theatre by the agent Proshinsky.I explained to Ts’ong that he might not appreciate the concert, two Mozart Sonatas and the Chopin 4 Scherzi, as Pogorelich could be very capricious like Shura Cherkassky.
Ts’ong listened to the concert and rebuked me afterwards with ” but Shura loves the piano …this man hates it!”
The only words that Pogorelich uttered to me that evening were that he had in his contract(which was not with me as I had innocently hired the theatre out for a series that included mostly great singers ) that he should have a key to the green room and that he did not believe that we would get the stage ready as per contract after an afternoon performance of Old Times !
There was the famous confrontation with Karajan – two divos indeed.
Sparks were flying when the Tchaikowsky concerto recording was suddenly taken over by Claudio Abbado.
Karajan’s recording with Richter though is still the beacon by which we measure all others.
There were stories as well about a piano having some blood stains on the keys after a recording session with Zimerman and Bernstein!
All went to making a reputation but sometimes forgetting that here was a pianist with a unique technical command that Argerich had immediately noticed .His musicianship or lack of it has always been in discussion.
And so the controversy raged until the tragic death of his wife ,teacher and mentor Alisa Kezeradze led obviously to a complete breakdown.
So it is good news that he has come through and is playing as he used to again.
The difference is that now he plays with the score, although rarely looks at it, with an evident love of piano sonorities that is quite beguiling.
In the end though it is without any architectural shape or musical direction and ultimately becomes boring.
All song and no dance!
It was interesting to see this figure at the keyboard just very quietly playing parts of the Bach that we were allowed to overhear while entering the hall.Really beautiful sounds with every so often a very precise accent like a bell similar to when one had to turn the page on the old typewriter.No score in view all played by someone who was just experimenting with the sounds that he would share with us in the concert later.

pre concert musings
He then disappeared about five minutes before the beginning of the concert reappearing in very distinguished evening dress looking ever more like the Richter in his latter years when he too would appear with the score and very subdued lighting.
With the page turner very discreetly seated on a stool beside him, the scores for the next performances thrown casually onto the floor behind the piano.
A ritual had been performed and we were ready to begin the concert.
A very fine, if individual, account of Bach’s English Suite n.3 in G minor.
The Prelude opened with great rhythmic impetus and very telling voicing.
An Allemande beautifully flowing and sung with a whispered repeat of touching beauty.
A beguiling Courante full of half shades and a very dramatic final cadence.
It opened the door to a very noble Sarabande of great significance dissolving to create some truly magical moments.
In lesser hands it could have seemed grotesque but this was a heartfelt statement of great weight.
An impishly pointed Gavotte with La Musette played almost without pedal was a true tour de force of digital control.
The final Gigue was played with almost hammered rhythmic insistence.
It was an opening of great weight and importance that immediately signified the return of the warrior of yore.
In the Beethoven Sonata op 22 that followed this very individual approach was much more problematic and hard to understand or digest.
Beethoven’s undercurrent of rhythmic energy is not so openly linked to the dance form of the Bach Suites but nevertheless is an energy that should carry us along from the beginning to the end.An achitectural sense of line that takes in Beethoven’s tempestuous changes of mood.
In the first movement there was great insistence on the bass almost submerging the treble melodic line that had to fight to be heard.
Beethoven’s florid rhythmic arpeggios were thrown off like romantic arbesques which did lead eventually to a very effective bass melodic line.A series of rather romantic episodes that broke the magic line that Beethoven so clearly indicates.
A beautiful cantabile in the ‘Adagio con molta espressione’ leading to a ‘Menuetto’ of very capricious sotto voce sounds almost jeux perlé of yesteryear.
A truly hammered middle section dying away to a whisper.
A strange non legato melodic line for the Rondo with some very strange colourings like the great romantic pianists of a past era playing with teasing sonorities.There was great drama in the minor section with enormous contrast which was completely out of context but also very impressive.
A Beethoven that seemed much longer than the actual thirty minutes of musings that we were treated to.
After the interval a Chopin that received a real ovation from his fans but that I found very grotesque indeed.
It is as though Rubinstein had never existed and the old Chopin tradition had continued for another century.
The great nobility and lack of sentimentality together with great respect for the composer wishes is substituted with someone who enjoys taking the notes and playing with them.
Beautiful sonorities that titivate the senses and show off their great range of sounds without any real sense of line or shape.
There is a school of pianists from the East who enjoy using the masterworks of composers to show off their superb technical command.
The opposite of a true interpreter who places their complete technical command to the use of interpreting the composers wishes as expressed in their scores.There is a following of people who have reacted,quite understandably to the overclinical dry respect for the score and have lost the magic that can be created seemingly only with total freedom.
A true interpreter is he that can combine both and they are very few and far between.
Perahia and Zimerman are the supreme examples of course of our day.
It is not just by chance that Perahia was mentored by Horowitz  and Zimerman by Rubinstein!

The S.Cecilia Symphony Hall of Renzo Piano at the Parco della Musica Rome
Pogorelich opened the Barcarolle with two hands and then spent time adjusting the stool before entering with the very swaying barcarolle rhythm.A series of episodes some extremely beautiful and others extremely angular but on the whole without any real shape of architectural direction or purpose.It was rather boring.
The Prelude op 45 was played with a superb sense of control with two completely separate layers of sound .The arpeggios that sweep across the keyboard were played with a crystal clear pianissimo which showed off a quite transcendental control of sound.The second layer was a beautifully chiselled melody that was in a completely separate compartment instead of growing out of the flowing arpreggios which Chopin asks for.
Ravel ‘Gaspard de la Nuit’ completed the programme.
It has long been his ‘cavallo di battagia’ much admired by fellow pianists on that famous Ravel disc of thirty years ago.
A beautifully florid ‘Ondine’ showed that Pogorelich has lost nothing of his superb digital control of precision and sound.Some wonderful washes of sound and projection of the melodic line.
‘Le gibet’ was more problematic in that there were a series of very beautiful sounds seemingly totally unrelated to each other.
It reminded me of another work on that famous Ravel disc: ‘Valses Nobles e Sentimentales.’
I remember listening and being somehow reminded of the Valses I knew very well.
I was reminded of what my old teacher Perlemuter had remarked. Such was the disjointed nature of the notes that it sounded like someone in a period of study before piecing them together to make a coherant whole.
This was just the same impression as ‘Le Gibet’ tonight.
’Scarbo’ ,of course showed off all the transcendental technique of which he is still master.Some very pointed sounds on the repeated notes but also some very evocative sounds of great passionate outbursts and enormous sonorities.
The ending was one of the most successful that I have every heard in public.
No encores offered even though the  public were on their feet deliriously welcoming back their warrior all over again.
Dan Danielli “when he was eliminated from the first round of the Chopin competition and Martha Argerich resigned, quite rightly,in disgust.” Quite rightly? – are you sure, Christopher? Pogo’s 1980 Warsaw performances are on youtube, and they amply demonstrate why the jury didn’t pass him into the finals:
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Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)
Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)

Pogorelich: Chopin Sonata No.2 (live from Chopin Competition)

  • Christopher Axworthy Thanks Danny sure you are right but then why did she resign?She obviously saw what a talent he was ………….and competitions do not know how to deal with that type of talent .Should it be immediately eliminated as Agosti would have done or allow his supersonic technical gifts to thrill audiences world wide as happened in this case.Remember Martha was the only student of Friedrich Gulda who gave his last disco in my theatre!!!!Bonkers all of them but my God how they can tickle the keys!!!!!!!And what a thrill they have given to vast audiences.They are ( non Gulda of course in the beginning) more entertainers ,circus acts,than Serkin type interpreters.
  • So you are right and wrong just like Pirandello depends on how you look in the prism.
  • ‘Cosi è,se vi pare’ indeed !(“Thats how it is,if you like it.”)


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