That great Italian pianist, Maurizio Pollini, does not play for thrills. He is too sober and introspective a musician to perform in such terms. Yet, in an internalized sense, there were thrills aplenty in his concert of Beethoven and Schubert last night at the Kennedy Center.
The thrills were in the consistent luminosity of tone from one end of the keyboard to the other. They were in the incredible evenness of the scales and of the articulation in general. And the thrills were also in the extraordinarily precise voicing of the chords, the perfect trills. All of these, though, are characteristics that serve the music more than the man.
The Beethoven consisted of the two sonatas "quasi una fantasia" that constitute the composer's Opus 27. The latter, of course, is the most famous of all sonatas, the "Moonlight," in C-sharp minor. Pollini played the first movement raptly -- very quietly and deliberately, with real warmth and considerable rubato. And that whirlwind of a finale was stirring without seeming in the least hysterical, as it sometimes does. Every accent was precise. Pollini may not be a bravura pianist, but he is stunningly accurate.
That was nowhere clearer than in the fast chordal leaps in the last movement of the other Opus 27 sonata, in E-flat major. Also, Pollini brought remarkable pedaling to all the music. Dynamics were superb, with quiet playing that was really quiet.
Both Beethoven sonatas were not only impeccably put together, but one heard an interpretive freedom and imagination that one doesn't always associate with Pollini's music making.
The Schubert consisted of two works in C minor. One was the relatively brief Allegretto, D. 915, and the other was the Sonata, D. 958. Neither is among the most commonly played Schubert works. At no point in the concert was that uncanny voicing of chords more notable than in the Allegretto.
The sonata is masterful, as was Pollini's performance. The last movement resembles that of Schubert's B-flat sonata, his most familiar, with its lyrical dotted melody in the instrument's high register.