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Chopin, at the Romanian Atheneum, Adapted by Ivo Pogorelic - Not for the die-hard fans

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 , ora 14.25

It was an unusual Chopin recital, but in a good way. It contradicted most of the audience's usual musical expectations, but it did so in a memorable way! In the morning of Sunday, October 24th 2010, you either loved or hated Pogorelic; but I shall start by saying I couldn't have hated him!

To sum it up, Ivo Pogorelic presented a Chopin that was completely different from that purely enjoyable sound experience, pleasantly lyrical melancholy, usually attributed to him. Anyway, for Pogorelic, Frédéric Chopin was light years away from that easily frivolous romanticism, still respected by many players.

Let's remember that, 30 years ago, in 1980, Pogorelic became famous as a pianist, by an apparently painful failure: he was not admitted in the final of The International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, which made Martha Argerich and Nikita Magaloff leave the jury; Martha Argerich thought of Pogorelic to be "a genius, the piano's sublime poet", of course misunderstood back then, and punished accordingly.

Today, his unorthodoxy is his trademark, but this could also damage what Pogorelic considers to be the most important: the message of his musical stride, shadowed by the fame of his own eccentricity.

Pogorelic chose for his Bucharest recital a list of rarely played songs, and probably unfamiliar to the Bucharest public, since they didn't react at the end (except for one time, I think): Prelude op. 45, Nocturne op. 62 nr.2, op. 55 nr.2, Polonaise op. 40 nr.2, and for the finale he played Sonata nr.3, op. 58; a programme of discrete interior confession, made into a philosophy by Pogorelic, a solemn meditation, all rendered rather in the darker spectrum of music. Pogorelic's view is black, distant, cerebral, but perfectly coherent in this context, only seldom letting in rays of light, not of hope, of course. Optimism, exuberance, exaltation were surely the only ones that could have made the public happy, but Pogorelic didn't want it, just like he said in the interview he gave us, he does not serve the public, only the composer.

As for the piano, the recital was an extraordinary performance by a Grand Maestro of the keys. He prefers dark, intimate, dim sounds, but he has an enormous capability to voice this spectrum! And he has fine expressive polytonal abilities.

Indeed, it was an unorthodox Chopin recital, in the sense that we're not used to this, but a memorable one, performed almost impressionistically, with many Pogorelic trademarks, just like in the beginning of his rebellious career. If you are among those who seek other things beside the numerous recordings favourite Chopin works, you would have probably thanked Pogorelic in the morning of October 24th, even only for his original ways of playing Chopin, a road not easy to take.

Pogorelic is a worthy heavy weight artist, who sometimes, or more often, chose to swim against the tide. I had an invitation to his recital, but if he ever comes back to Bucharest, I would gladly pay to hear Ivo Pogorelic again.

ªtefan Costache
Translated by Tudor Ciocãnel and Andreea Velicu
MA Students, MTTLC, Bucharest University