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Chopin / Ivo Pogorelich

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Ivo Pogorelich has a special relationship with the piano music of the Polish Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin. It is Chopin, after all, whom he has to thank for his international breakthrough. When, at the age of 22, Pogorelich took part in the 1980 Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, his exceptional playing caused an immediate sensation. Martha Argerich, who was on the jury, described him as a “genius”.  Since that time, Pogorelich has been increasingly committed, on recording and in concert, to an image of Chopin that is far from the commonplace cliché of the brilliant and pleasing composer of salon music. Now Pogorelich once again offers completely new insights into Chopin’s world and the soul within the sound in what is in fact his fifth Chopin album, but the first for more than twenty years. He has selected works from the 1840s, the last decade of the Polish master’s life. These include the Nocturnes op. 48 no. 1 and op. 62 no. 2, the Fantasy op. 49 and Chopin’s third and last Piano Sonata, op. 58.

What Pogorelich admires in these works is Chopin’s ability to make the piano a gateway to the soul: “Chopin delivers an open invitation to penetrate human psychology. It’s a specific invitation to continually seek out and explore every possibility that the piano has to offer. That’s a never-ending process, and it will continue to challenge new generations of artists in the future too.”

The Croatian-born pianist traces a path in this recital that starts with the small form, continues by way of the brilliant Fantasy and finally reaches the large-scale, four-movement sonata form. In Pogorelich’s hands, despite their magical lyricism, the two Nocturnes have a  gripping sense of tension and drama. The Fantasy in F minor, op. 49 is marked by a sombre mood of conflict, yet at the same time it reflects the improvisational skill for which Chopin was celebrated. With the Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, op. 58, the composer not merely bids farewell to this genre, with all its rich tradition. The work also demonstrates his efforts to create a new kind of sonata. And with Ivo Pogorelich this much-performed and popular piano work is transformed into an exciting new encounter with Frédéric Chopin.


After a 20-year hiatus from the recording studio as regards Chopin, Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich (b. 1958) returns with an hour of deeply-thought, if eternally controversial, interpretations of some standard, late-Chopin repertory.

Pogorelich claims that “art is cruel,” that it often violently confronts our conventions and our complacency. Even if one does not subscribe to Antonin Artaud’s credo of art’s “theater of cruelty,” we must acknowledge that Pogorelich softens the blows with a wonderfully warm sonority and clarity of line.

If one is willing to concede that “depth of expression” compensates for or justifies hyperbolic slowness, then Pogorelich’s Fantasy in F Minor (1841) will appear a miracle of sustained intimacy, given its full three-minutes’ length beyond that of Claudio Arrau. The grim, martial opening will soon cede to national, Polish impulses in aristocratic contours, in mazurka and polonaise rhythms. Pogorelich becomes mesmerized by his own poetic filigree, so the musical thread loses a sense of dramatic continuity. Again, the luxury of the arpeggios and runs, high and low, mixed together with declamatory bass chords, proves haunting. In the middle section, Lento sostenuto, Pogorelich finds a drawn-out, poetic balance of improvisatory and ballade-like narrative. The last pages become a postlude or epilogue, very slow and deliberate, strumming their way into a vaporous coda.

Pogorelich’s way with Chopin last, published Nocturne in E (1846) feels better suited to his grand leisure: marked Lento, dolce sostenuto, the melodic line can bear the stretched, serpentine extension it receives, more like Berlioz than Chopin. The secondary theme in ascending, bass runs achieves C-sharp Minor and a series of syncopations that articulate Chopin’s advanced sense of polyphony. Pogorelich makes these rhythmic impulses more lyrical than their accustomed wont. We feel significantly alerted to Chopin’s trills and moving bass line, as the piece eventually assumes a modified rondo format. The music ends, or rather collapses, into the tonic and evaporates.

The last of Chopin’s three piano sonatas, this in B Minor (1844), receives the most improvisatory treatment in the program. The opening, Allegro maestoso, acquires a searching gravitas, alternately martial and nostalgic. Pogorelich milks the secondary theme in D, breaking its dreamy phrases to contrast with the quicksilver runs that provide a coda to the disparate fragments. That the movement ends in the tonic major seems artificial here, another spliced-on, poetic shard.

So far as improvisation occurs, the Scherzo: Molto vivace in E-flat Major from Pogorelich really proves the berries. He invests a liquid urgency into its eighth-note runs, while the chordal, B Major section projects reflective poise. Doubtless, all of Pogorelich’s slow tempos have been awaiting the B Major Largo movement, which now drags out a long, chain-link series of nocturnal thoughts in E Major. If the playing were not so intrinsically lyric, the progress would resemble a sweet dirge with tolling bells. The last movement, Finale: Presto non tanto, assuming the listener’s patience has endured, moves with a hard-won (after a lingering, high dominant 7th chord) gallop, a bit marcato for my taste, but at least moving with decisiveness, especially in the brilliant runs. The secondary theme in the relative B Major, hurls a sense of national pride at us, its left hand’s singing in the manner of a liberated etude. Pogorelich’s sonority gains the heroic high ground at last, thundering to a firm, B Major coda.

-- Audaud.com (Gary Lemco)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 18, 2022

  • Catalog Number: 19439912052

  • UPC: 194399120521

  • Label: Sony

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Frédéric Chopin

  • Performer: Ivo Pogorelich


  1. Nocturne No. 13 in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1

    Composer: Frédéric Chopin

    Performer: Ivo Pogorelich (PIano)

  2. Nocturne No. 18 in E major, Op. 62 No. 2

    Composer: Frédéric Chopin

    Performer: Ivo Pogorelich (PIano)

  3. Fantasia in F minor, Op. 49

    Composer: Frédéric Chopin

    Performer: Ivo Pogorelich (PIano)

  4. Sonata for Piano No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58

    Composer: Frédéric Chopin

    Performer: Ivo Pogorelich (PIano)