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Pollini Speaks about Boulez

available at Amazon
Beethoven, Complete Piano Sonatas, M. Pollini
(DG, 2015)

available at Amazon
Boulez, Piano Sonata No. 2 (inter alia), M. Pollini
(DG, 1976)
Pierre Boulez turned 90 on Thursday. In his honor, Maurizio Pollini, who was last in this area in 2013, is playing Boulez's second piano sonata on a recital at the Philharmonie de Paris this Monday. Marie-Aude Roux caught up with Pollini ("scrupulously devoted to music but ascetic when it comes to the press") earlier this month in Milan, for an interview (Maurizio Pollini, un piano entre ascèse et passion, March 28) in Le Monde (my translation):
"I met Boulez in the early 1970s in New York," the pianist recalls. "I went back there twice later on to play two of the Bartók concertos with him. We subsequently saw each other often in Europe, in Paris, London, then in Tokyo. We used to speak about music for hours. He often produced trenchant views on this composer or that composer. But sometimes he did change opinions: on the subject of Berg, for example, whom he did not appreciate at all, but whose Wozzeck, Lulu, Chamber Concerto he later conducted magnificently."

Maurizio Pollini pulls himself up from the small white sofa in a living room that serves as antechamber. In one of the rooms off to the side, where two Steinway grand pianos are installed, covered with books and scores, he goes to look for one, a little worn, of the second sonata. "It is still just as difficult! It has been a few years since I have played it," he adds, "but it remains an integral part of my repertoire. It's a work that means to destroy the classical sonata by using it for the last time. One has to find a middle ground between the extreme tension of its writing and the intelligibility of the form, two things that are in conflict. I have looked for that balance, and I am still looking for it." Maurizio Pollini puts on his glasses. He turns the pages looking for Boulezien stage directions, what he calls the "elements of destruction." He indicates in a loud voice: "With strong, exasperated nuance," "Much more rudely," and stops, amused, making me notice with malice that this instruction happens at a soft moment. Each new indication is an added turn of the screw: "More and more chopped and brutal," "Even more violent," "Extremely bright, pulverize the sound." He stops, closes the score, as if worn out by the fight. "This second sonata is for me one of the grand masterworks of the post-WWII years."
He had much more to say, about his childhood in Milan, his favorite pianists, his partnership and friendship with the late Claudio Abbado. Hopefully, Monday's concert will be streamed on one of the French broadcast services.

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