Chopin Etudes - First Recording

One of Thomas’ Music better-selling CD sets of recent months has been the Deutsche Grammophon box containing all of pianist Maurizio Pollini’s magisterial recordings of Chopin for them. This recent release from Testament completes the picture: the moment where Pollini’s career began, one of the truly great hitherto unreleased recordings. In 1960, shortly after he won the Chopin Competition, Pollini recorded the complete Opp. 10 and 25 Études at Abbey Road for EMI. For various, still murky, reasons, Pollini never authorised the resulting tapes for release, and they have languished on a shelf until, fifty years later, they entered the public domain and Testament saw their opportunity. As you would expect of a recording from that era, the piano sound is a little boxy, and there is a perceptible ambience, but Pollini’s playing—aged 18!—defies criticism. The comparison with his later recording of these works for Deutsche Grammophon has been said to favour the earlier versions; the 1960 readings are certainly more intimate, less grand, and the pianism of the young Pollini remains a wonder. Of such stuff are legends made. This is in every way a self-recommending release.

Review reprinted with permission of Thomas’ Music.