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  Deutsche Grammophon -
  471 648-2
  Chopin: Polonaises - Pollini
  Chopin: Polonaises Nos. 1-7

Maurizio Pollini (piano)
Track listing:
  Classical - Instrumental
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 2

Reviews: 5 show all

Review by AmirKessner July 7, 2006 (7 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
In view of the glowing recommendations above about the superlative improvement of the SACD vs. the DG Originals CD, which I own, I rushed ahead and bought the SACD. Well, indeed there is SOME noticeable improvement, but even in this 96 kHz / 24 bit / 5.1 surround-sound incarnation, this is hardly an audiophile recording. Pollini's slightly metallic, hard-hitting sound in fortissimo passages still remains so, even if less than in the CD, and is a bit tiring on the ear. SOUND-wise, this is incomparable to the Yundi Li recordings mentioned above.

As to the performances, Pollini is a relatively cool customer, albeit always musical and noble. If you're looking for Horowitz-like emotional and pianistic abandon, or for Rubinstein-like warmth, or for superlative sound, I assume you'll want to look elsewhere. This Pollini SACD is a really safe recommendation for those wishing to have a noble, never over-the-top, well sculpted, musical and pianistically impeccable performance in good sound. If you already have the DG Originals CD, you can invest your money better elsewhere than in upgrading to this SACD.

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Review by theaudiohiffle July 4, 2003 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Deutsch Gramaphone is not noted for its lifelike engineering, but when it comes to SACD they are doing something right. Of the several DG's I've heard, none have been bad and most much better sounding than their stereo cd versions. Moreover, they seem to be going back to the master tapes and avoiding all compression. But nothing prepared me for this.

DG's 1976 recording of Maurice Pollini playing Chopin Polonaises is absolutely stunning. The piano (not indicated) is located on the stage of the Grosser Saal of the Vienna Musikverein. The ambience in the rear channels appears to be real, distant ambiance and not a synthetic reproduction. Moreover, since this is a solo instrument DG's engineers haven't much chance to muck up the sound with two much multimiking, as is their want. As a result, the piano is presented as a solid image at a believeable stage distance, with just enough of the outstanding hall acoustics to give the piano the warm acoustics appropriate to Chopin. This is far and away one of the best piano recordings I have ever heard, in any medium. The lower registers in particular combine with the halls acoustics to stunning effect.

As to the performance, well, Pollini is top-notch and these are beautifully realized performances. Combined with the exquisite sound, this is a must have disk for anybody with a SACD player and a multichannel setup.

If your tastes (or current equipment) run to stereo SACD or CD, the story is a bit different. While the playing is still excellent, it is apparent that DG did not "mix" the stereo version using any hall ambience. In fact the stereo sound is essentially the close-mic'd "front" sound of the 5.1 mix. What's wrong with this, you say. Well, all that lovely, rolling, natural sounding bass that I raved about above is missing. And with it the special magic of this disk.

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Review by akiralx January 22, 2005 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Yes, as other reviewers have said, you really need a multi-channel setup to get the most from this SACD.

I used to have this album in its DG Originals incarnation (still available of course), and at the time felt the recording rather clattery - to such an extent that it rendered the interpretations a blank in retrospect.

Here I did an experiment - I listened to the famous Polonaise op.44 first in CD stereo, which sounded better than I recall it did on the Originals CD, with more body and little harshness in the upper register. The stereo SACD layer was a little better, but nothing revelatory - but in multi-channel: I can only say 'WOW!', simple as that. The sound opens up dramatically with the hall's ambience (the Musikverein in Vienna) brought into play to wonderful effect. The improvement is pretty staggering - nearly in the same class as Yundi Li's DG Chopin CD, which of course was recorded last year, not in 1975 like Pollini's disc. The use of the rear channels here is very clever - DG's engineers have captured the full acoustic qualities of this great hall extremely well.

Performance-wise these recordings are excellent. I've never been a devout Pollini-phile, although some of his recordings are my favourites for certain works, like Schubert's D959 Sonata and Brahms' 2nd Piano Concerto (the earlier recording made about the same time as this SACD). Here he is in imperious form, before the element of coolness afflicted his playing in the 1980s - although I have a couple of his most recent CDs, e.g. of the Chopin Ballades where hs also plays in a freer and almost fiery style, as here.

Most enjoyable perhaps is his large-scale view of the great Polonaise-Fantaisie which comes over superbly here. I know this work very well, and while Richter's Praga recording is probably my favourite, this is also outstanding.

If you've got a multi-channel setup, do not hesitate - otherwise you can stick with the redbook CD in my view.

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Works: 7  

Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 "Heroic"
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in A major, Op. 40 No. 1 "Military"
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40 No. 2
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in C sharp minor, Op. 26 No. 1
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in E flat minor, Op. 26 No. 2
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61