Maurizio Pollini, age 82.  Probably the most technically perfect of the major pianists who began their careers in the 60’s.  He studied under the obsessively perfect nutcase, Aurturo Benedetti Michelangeli.  Some considered him (and his teacher’s) playing too cerebral and cold, as if they were showing contempt for the music they were playing by playing it so perfectly.  I disagree.

6 Replies to “Shit”

  1. Wow. As a guy who took classical piano lessons for 10 years, I find it hard to understand how mere mortals can memorize these complex pieces.

  2. Yeah, and these recitals can go on for an hour or two. Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, which I posted a while back, can last an hour.

  3. Haha, no, the Hammerklavier is an absolute beast, especially the finale, a huge and fiendishly complicated fugue. One of the most difficult pieces in the entire piano repertoire, both physically and mentally. Playing it is a forty-minute act of masochism for even the very best pianists. Pollini’s 1970’s Hammerklavier is one of the best ever recorded, many would consider it the best.

    It’s not easy to listen to either. It takes quite a few listens before you start to get it, and if you’ve had any alcohol, forget about trying. If you want to hear the glories of the late Beethoven piano sonatas, listen to nos. 30-32 first, then go back to the Hammerklavier (no. 29).

  4. I’m curious: if you just heard the recording without knowing who it was, could you:

    1) tell it’s an 82 year old man

    2) tell it’s Pollini specifically

  5. I could do neither.

    1) There’s nothing that necessarily says to me, “that’s an old man.”

    2) Pollini lost some of his characteristic precision and hyper-focus in the past two decades, so I would not be able to identify him based on that recording. It’s also a bit softer-edged than classic Pollini.

    If you played me that and asked “is that young or old Pollini,” that would be an easy call.

    I could probably identify a recording of the young Pollini; I’ve probably heard all of his 70’s-mid 90’s recordings at least once, and several many times. I could definitely spot his Hammerklavier, as it’s my go-to.

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