The legendary Ivo Pogorelich was playing in Salle Gaveau. I remember the physical impact the Croatian pianist had on the audience – including myself – the first 2 times I saw him, about 2 decades ago. I’ve had the privilege to see many extraordinary pianists over the years – Brendel, Perahia, Lupu, Zimerman, Koroliov, Pollini, Pires, Schiff, Barenboim, Fleisher, Kocsis, Kovacevich, Istomin, Sokolov, Lugansky to name but a few – but the only one who had a similar impact on me was the great Richter.
Since he returned to the concert hall, Pogorelich has changed some habits and now plays with the score and minimal light (like Richter or Sokolov) so the audience can focus on the music, not the pianist. His technique is still exceptional but his approach to compositions can cause misunderstanding from critics and part of audiences alike.
His very slow tempi – the opposite of Pollini – go to the point that sometimes the listener can feel lost as the melody seems almost interrupted, and tempi and dynamic oppositions can also be challenging. But Pogorelich has not only kept his technique (what a left hand!) but this ability to take the listener in his world, which he wants to be the composer’s world without the influence of tradition.
He opened the recital with Chopin’s 2nd Ballad followed by a heroic 3rd Scherzo and then Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien, with a wonderful Romance and superb Intermezzo and Finale.
After the pause, he played Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor, a masterpiece with intense drama and permanent beauty, then Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Sonata. I’m very far from being an admirer of the Russian composer, but played like this, I enjoyed the work very much: no sentimentalism or “syrupy” playing at all! Angelich had a similar approach when he recorded the Etudes-Tableaux early in his “career”.
Pogorelich gave a remarkable Sibelius Valse triste as an encore.