Maurizio Pollini

Grand master of the piano

(Photo: Mathias Bothor)

Maurizio Pollini’s reputation preceded him when he made his first appearance as a soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1970. Ten years previously, the barely 18-year-old had won the prestigious International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Despite this pianistic accolade, the Milan-born musician did not throw himself immediately into an international career, but decided to continue studying and to finish off his musical studies with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. This was an investment in the future. “He has the late-Classical coolness of a Benedetti Michelangeli in his fingers,” wrote Die Welt following Pollini’s début with the Philharmoniker, in which he played Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, conducted by Zdenek Mácal.

Regular guest artist of the Philharmoniker

Since then, Pollini has been an established figure with the Berliner Philharmoniker. He has played all the major piano concertos with the orchestra: Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Bartók, Schoenberg – and Mozart on repeated occasions. Over the years, the pianist also conducted the performance of the Mozart work himself, thus giving the Berliners the opportunity to experience him as “primus inter pares” who encouraged a more chamber music style of playing from the Philharmoniker. The performances with his friend and fellow artist Claudio Abbado are legendary. For example, the memorable concert at the Waldbühne after the fire in the Philharmonie in 2008, when they performed Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. He and Abaddo also shared a keen interest in contemporary music, and together with the composer Luciano Berio, they initiated several concert series for new music.

Concise, clear, intense

Maurizio Pollini impresses with his clear, structured, and at the same time brilliant playing: Intensive and expressive, without resorting to sentimentality – a skill that few command as well as he. “While other pianists struggle to say anything creative with Mozart, the notes as written in the score still suffice for Pollini. Everything is there as a matter of course. Dry and laconic, yet incredibly present. And Pollini is the only pianist capable of this,” enthused the critic from Kulturradio following Pollini’s performance with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Christian Thielemann in December 2012, in which he performed Mozart’s C major Piano Concerto KV 467. At his most recent appearance with the orchestra in January 2016, he performed Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. Although Pollini has often been a guest soloist with the orchestra, his first solo recital as part of Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts was only in 2011. A regular feature of his recital programming has been works by Chopin which he contrasts with those of another composer. At his next recital on 6 March, he plays works by Chopin plus piano pieces by Robert Schumann, including his Sonata in F minor known as the "Concert sans orchestre".

Rehearsal 1974: Maurizio Pollini with Christoph von Dohnanyi
(Photo: Reinhard Friedrich)
Salzburg Whitsun Festival 1975: Pollini with the cellist Ottomar Borwitzky
(Photo: privat)
Pollini and Abbado 2008: concert at the Waldbühne after the fire in the Philharmonie
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)