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DVD: Ivo Pogorelich

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Ivo Pogorelich - Recital
(released on June 14, 2005)
Ivo Pogorelich (Pogorelić) was born in Croatia in 1958 and received his musical education in Belgrade and Moscow, notably with Aliza Kezeradze. After four years as her student (he began at age 17, she was 20-some years his senior), they were married, around the time that Pogorelich was eliminated from the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, sparking an infamous protest by juror Martha Argerich. Since Kezeradze's death from liver cancer in 1996, Pogorelich largely withdrew from public life. (Pogorelich spoke about his wife's death in an astounding interview with Manuel Brug for Die Welt this past August.) Coinciding with some recent concert appearances and a return to recording, Deutsche Grammophon released this recital DVD last year. It contains performances from 1986 and 1987, six recitals recorded by Unitel in historically important venues around Europe. A copy came to my mailbox from Netflix this week.

Ivo Pogorelich, pianist, b. 1958The first section of this DVD is devoted to Baroque music, played on a Steinway in two beautiful rooms in the Villa Caldogno, completed by Andrea Palladio in 1570, near Vicenza. Pogorelich is probably the most formidable and unorthodox player of Baroque keyboard music since Glenn Gould. He generally favors fast tempi, crisply detached articulation, and rhythmic severity. His playing is rigidly intellectual, and his demeanor is never theatrical (no distracted humming à la Gould or self-indulgent swaying à la Lang Lang).

Pogorelich keeps his face an impassive mask, with at most a slight crease of his lips indicating moments of particular tension. Although his attack is often strident -- he's a remarkably strong player -- each piece is also shaded with impressive subtlety. For example, the Allemandes and Sarabandes of the two J. S. Bach English Suites (no. 2 in A minor, BWV 807, and no. 3 in G minor, BWV 808) are dances of tender lyricism, lute interludes by comparison to the grander, more orchestral preludes and gigues. The six sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (most on view at YouTube: no. 5 in C major, no. 17 in E major, no. 19 in E minor, no. 35 in G minor, no. 15 in D minor, and no. 3 in C major) are all charming miniatures. (Speaking of terrifyingly good playing, take a look/listen at Martha Argerich playing Scarlatti's K. 141, making Chico Marx-like child's play of those repeated notes. I can waste a lot of time at YouTube.)

Ivo Pogorelich playing Scarlatti, K. 159

The Baroque portion is followed by two pieces by Beethoven, beginning with the lesser-known eleventh sonata (B-flat major, op. 22, from 1800). Pogorelich's Beethoven is virtuosic and technically awe-inspiring but a little too abrasive for my taste. The Beethoven set concludes with a little bagatelle Beethoven did not even give an opus number, Für Elise. Judging by Pogorelich's rare emotional facial expression during this sweet performance, I would guess that the piece has a personal significance: perhaps that the dedicatee's name is similar to that of his wife, Aliza?

Pogorelich at Ionarts:

Jens F. Laurson, Dip Your Ears, No. 3: Scarlatti Sonatas (July 8, 2004)

Jens F. Laurson, Ivo Pogorelich: Phoenix or Swan Song? (November 4, 2004)
Throughout this recital, Humphrey Burton's film direction tends to focus on extreme close-ups of Pogorelich's hands flashing across the keys, which can be mesmerizing. The other recitals recorded by Unitel apparently feature pieces by Chopin, Mozart, Haydn, and even Scriabin and Prokofiev. Needless to say, I look forward to their release on DVD. There are many video clips of Pogorelich from other recitals available at YouTube.

Tomorrow evening, Washingtonians have the opportunity to hear Ivo Pogorelich live: there are still tickets for his recital (October 22, 7 pm) at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, way out in Fairfax. It is the same venue where he played on his last trip to the Washington area, two years ago, when he was received with generous ovations. I have no idea what he is planning to play, but it should be worth the trip. Tickets are cheap, from $22 to $44.

Deutsche Grammophon NTSC 073 404-5

Two major critics have savaged Ivo Pogorelich's American appearances this week:As the latter ended his review, "Here is an immense talent gone tragically astray. What went wrong?" Part of the audience booed at the New York performance. Oh, dear.

1 comment:

jfl said...

I almost feel vindicated. Tony T's description of op.111 is almost identical with mine - and the tenor is similar to the one I attributed to most of the first half. Donald H. Crosby, who wrote the 'emergency review' for the WP after mine was axed, felt curiously different about no.32, but otherwise similar.

Only that the second part of the concert - well, at least the Liszt - back then was worthwhile.