Here Comes The Son: The Sequel

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

Daniele Pollini’s second solo CD for Deutsche Grammophon opens with a straightforward and pianistically shipshape Schumann Carnaval. The pianist’s fastidious technique impresses in Reconnaissance’s impeccably controlled right-hand repeated-note octaves and in Paganini’s mega-secure leaps, while his lyrical gifts particularly tell in Eusebius’ shapely animation. Elsewhere, I miss the contrasts in articulation and character that abound throughout Nelson Freire’s Decca recording, as random comparisons bear out.

Schumann indicates that the eleven-note Sphinxes motive should not be played, but some pianists do so anyway. Rachmaninov, for example, notoriously embellished the notes with groaning, dissonant tremolos, while Herbert Schuch muted the strings, prepared-piano style. By contrast, Walter Gieseking merely played the notes quietly, and so does Pollini.

The late Harris Goldsmith described the studio recording of Beethoven’s Op. 111 sonata by Daniele Pollini’s father Maurizio Pollini as conveying “purposeful bleakness”. These words readily befit the younger pianist’s way with Brahms’ Op. 119 pieces; if you want tenderness and varying hues of light and shade, go to Stephen Hough or Joseph Moog instead.

Naturally I couldn’t resist comparing son and father back-to-back in the Schoenberg selections. In Op. 11’s gnarly third piece, Daniele plays certain scurrying right-hand figurations more impetuously, and gives special voice to inner lines. On the other hand, Maurizio’s balancing of chords stands out for its awesome centeredness and sheen. Both pianists handle the Six Little Pieces Op. 19’s exposed textures with comparable refinement, although I lean toward Daniele’s yielding lilt in No. 5’s opening measures, in contrast to Dad’s cooler demeanor.

Daniele’s well played and thoughtfully detailed Five Pieces Op. 23, however, falls ever-so-slightly short of his father’s special qualities. In No. 1, I’m more convinced by the older pianist’s strong sense of the music’s long lines and assiduously effected tempo changes. Maurizio’s sharper detaché articulation, more startling accents, and stinging trills in No. 2 also score over Daniele’s less intense reading. As much as I like Daniele’s leisurely, spun-out No. 3 and rhythmically pinpointed fifth-movement Waltz, Maurizio’s superior timbral differentiation between foreground and background material remains reference worthy. In sum, there’s much to admire in Daniele Pollini’s second solo release, even though it doesn’t quite measure up to the promise of his impressive DG debut.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Schumann Carnaval: Freire (Decca), Brahms Klavierstücke Op. 119: Hough (Hyperion); Moog (Onyx), Schoenberg Piano Music: Maurizio Pollini (DG); Peter Serkin (Arcana)

JOHANNES BRAHMS: Klavierstücke Op. 119
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG: Three Piano Pieces Op. 11; Six Little Pieces Op. 19; Five Piano Pieces Op. 23

  • Daniele Pollini (piano)

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