Pollini/Staatskapelle Dresden/Thielemann(Deutsche Grammophon)
Recorded live at the Semperoper in Dresden in June last year, this was Maurizio Pollini's first appearance with the city's Staatskapelle for quarter of a century. It's even longer since his only studio recording of Brahms's First Piano Concerto, which dates from 1979. The most surprising feature of the new version is that the conductor is Christian Thielemann, not an obvious collaborator for a musician of Pollini's temperament and outlook, yet in practice the partnership works remarkably well. Thielemann's broad-brush expressiveness provides a foil to Pollini's playing, which seems to acquire extra weight and spaciousness from the emphatic orchestra. Some passages have a real theatrical grandeur; the slow movement becomes a rapt hymn. If, overall, the performance doesn't quite match the best in the catalogue – probably Emil Gilels with Jochum from the early 1970s, or Nelson Freire with Chailly conducting among those from the present century – it's very impressive on its own terms.
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