Maurizio Pollini, who is featured in a recital at Strathmore on Sunday, has been called a lion of the keyboard, standing tall among today's legendary pianists. A London critic, after attending one of Pollini's performances a few years back, reported in a glowing review that Pollini is the "Italian arch-aristocrat of the piano" and that "he uses his palette of stainless-steel shades to convey unshakeable faith in the music's muscles, sinews and skeleton."
Pollini, on the other hand, bestows his kudos on Frederic Chopin, a composer he has studied extensively over the years and, consequently, becoming one of the Polish master's most virtuosic of interpreters.
Little wonder then that he would choose a program containing works befitting Chopin's genius.
"The Prelude in C-sharp minor begins the concert," said the 71-year-old Italian pianist, making his second visit to the Strathmore stage. "It is a wonderfully appointed piece that I will follow with Chopin's second and third ballades."
|» Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda|
|» When: 4 p.m. Sunday|
|» Info: $34.20 to $78; 301-581-5100; strathmore.org|
These are the Ballade No. 2 in F major and Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major.
Four mazurkas follow these. The mazurka is a Polish folk dance usually written in a lively tempo. Chopin first started composing mazurkas in 1825, but his composing did not become serious until 1830, the year of the Polish rebellion against the government of Russia. Further, Chopin experimented with the form, both stylistically and musically, when he used classical techniques, such as counterpoint and harmonies. While lovely to listen to, his compositions were almost impossible where dancing was concerned, therefore making this art form uniquely his.
"The mazurkas contain all the feeling and character which are present in Chopin's music, so there is a great variety of mood," Pollini continued. "They were absolutely wonderful and completely personal. He was a genius at this form."
The first part of the recital concludes with the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor.
Debussy's Preludes, Book 1 for solo piano comprise the second half of the program. "Debussy adored Chopin," Pollini explained. "And like Chopin, he was a master of variety for piano."
In addition to creating innovative concert programming that highlights champion works by contemporary composers, contrasted with those of the classical and romantic periods, Pollini's 40-plus albums have garnered numerous awards, including two Grammys.
"I like recitals where the pianist can be absolutely free to express his own musicality," said this lion of the keyboard. "This will be a beautiful program."