Piano Street Magazine

Maurizio Pollini’s Chopin Etudes Astonish 50 Years Later

September 3rd, 2012 in Piano News by | 5 comments

Why did we have had to wait over fifty years for this unique recording?

Maurizio Pollini withheld his permission for his first complete recording of the Chopin Etudes Opp. 10 & 25 to be released. While the legendary DG recording from the 1970s has long been acknowledged as one of the finest versions of the Chopin Etudes, the previously unissued version from Abbey Road Studios in 1960
– characterised by a lighter touch and greater musical freedom – is now available on Testament label.

Eighteen-year-old Maurizio Pollini recorded the complete Chopin Etudes for EMI in 1960, right after his first prize victory in the International Warsaw Chopin Competition. EMI’s late producer Peter Andrys described Pollini’s playing of the Etudes as “a spine-tingling experience”. Pollini however did not permit them to be issued and further recording sessions produced personality clashes. Pollini abandoned recording for ten years. Eventually he signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

It’s utterly superb: there’s a freshness about Pollini’s playing, a spontaneity that’s absent from his more magisterial later Chopin, and his technique is even more dazzling, too. If there’s a more naturally musical and immaculate recording of the Studies than this 1960 account, then I have yet to hear it. — The Guardian

This is very good 1960 piano sound. The instrument is recorded in close-up, as opposed to the concert hall acoustic Pollini has favoured since. Close scrutiny is no problem; indeed, it’s an asset for playing that is so controlled, expressive and phenomenally accurate. — Limelight Magazine

Technically, Pollini’s two recorded versions are equivalent in mastery and, although different in execution, musically they scale the same height. Is there too much gap between the last two studies? Once the final Etude’s semiquavers are unleashed, though, one can marvel at Pollini’s harmonic awareness and the way he shapes the music. His fingers ensure remarkable delivery. — Classicalsource.com

Chopin Etude in C major Op. 10 no 1:

Sheet music to download and print:

Hear samples from Pollini at the 1960 Chopin Competition in Warsaw

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  • paker says:

    Very nice player, his records from the Chopin Etudes are near excellent, my favourite played from him is the Op. 25 nº 12, of course it proves why he won the first prize in the chopin competition. Excellent article, thanks for sharing.

  • Jerzy Zbigniew Przybojewski says:

    A phenomenal achievement for an eighteen-year old pianist to have recorded the entire Chopin Etudes! The spontaneity, freshness of approach and shear brilliance of Pollini’s playing commands great respect. It is such a pity that his “adult” recordings are so incredibly measured and predictable.

    This is certainly a CD which I will purchase from Testament to add to the very many Chopin Etudes interpretations I have in my collection.

    Jerzy Zbigniew Przybojewski.

  • Rob Abelar says:

    I like the way he uses the pedals!! his interpretation is very clean and clear!!

  • Anthony Carrelli says:

    Maurizio Pollini’s Chopin Etude interpretations are without peer. I became aware of them fifteen years ago when I was trying to do them justice for myself. I have been playing Chopin privately for 50 years. This man is a gem.

    You will not do better than to listen to them.

  • Maria Angela Capello says:

    I admire Maurizio Pollini since many years ago. I saw him live in Caracas, Venezuela, and you must marveled when listening to a monumental figure in vituosism, musicality and concentration. This Studies, all at 18 years of age? wow. Some Chopin studies require a maturity level for interpretation that is already there! Pollini is a monumental figure in pianistic artistry. No doubt.

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