Pianist Daniel Pollack by Gary Lemco

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Pianist Daniel Pollack by Gary Lemco

Post by Lance » Sun Jan 15, 2012 6:43 pm

Daniel Pollack, pianist

Refined Atavism: Daniel Pollack in Recital
By Gary Lemco

VETERAN PIANIST Daniel Pollack performed for the Concert Series at Temple Emanu-El, Season Nine, in San Francisco, Monday, 9 January 2012. Pollack, a pupil of Rosina Lhevinne, Ethel Leginska, Wilhelm Kempff, and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, manages to embody all of their collective pedagogy into an astonishing array of touches and keyboard colorations, always in the service of the broad spectrum of music he champions.

Polite but undemonstrative to his audience, Pollack opened with J.S. Bach’s Organ Prelude in G Minor as arranged by Alexandre Siloti. The Steinway D Pollack played—an instrument once bequeathed to Ignaz Jan Paderewski—proved resonant and sonorously rich, although its bass could be imposing, especially later in the program, in which Liszt’s Funerailles had the glorious dead rising in both triumph and tragedy, pointing a cautionary finger in the manner of Abel Gance’s classic J’Accuse! The Bach set the tone of the evening: luminous, thoughtful, alternately diaphanous and thundering. The “organ” sound of the piano certainly imitated the diapason of the original, bold, liquid, resilient.

Pollack bowed once and then set to Chopin’s mighty Sonata in B Minor, Op. 58, a work which embraces both his especial harmony and his iconoclastic notion of formal structure. That Pollack can adjust his sonority to suit the spirit of the music became immediately apparent. Long lined, lean, contrapuntally acute, the first movement rang with suppressed emotions, demure but potent. With no caesura whatsoever, we found ourselves in the throes of the Molto vivace, the E-flat Scherzo whose choppy agogics could suddenly break off into sublime melancholy. Sensual and supple, the Largo proceeded as a haunted nocturne, mesmerizing in its repetitive phrases and rolling arpeggios in B major. The explosive finale galloped and hurtled through the harmonic minor scale, rushing ineluctably—perhaps a bit fast—to its mighty coda in a refreshed B major.

Pollack ended the generous first half with two Liszt pieces, each at the ecstatic extreme of his own Faustian temperament: the Consolation No. 3 in D-flat Major and the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in the same key. If the Consolation displayed Pollack’s intimate jeu perle, the Hungarian Rhapsody evinced a stylistic wit and wizardry rare, even in this glutted market of piano virtuosos. Playfully austere at times, the Rhapsody succumbed to the personality of the performer, the alte schule, if you will, in which pauses, held cadences, and dragonfly articulation had the piece drinking from Pollack’s fountain of colors. Barely moving himself, Pollack exhibited all of the palette we associate with Josef Hofmann or Horowitz, without the outward flamboyance,

After the plangent and Herculean Funerailles began part two, Pollack delved voluptuously into the world of Debussy, with Reflets dans l’eau and the prelude Feux d’artifice. If languor and sensuous evocation marked the first of the Images, a miraculous series of contrary motions blazed forth in Fireworks, easily the model for Stravinsky and Bartók, in their fashion. Pollack’s quicksilver leggierissimo seemed uncanny, brilliantly lighting spasmodic apparitions and color clusters, the tone, dynamic, and density in constant, protean evolution.

Now that we had been thoroughly bedazzled, Polack presented two sides of another mystical voluptuary, Alexandre Scriabin, in his Nocturne for the Left Hand, Op. 9, No. 2 and the tumultuous Etude in D-sharp Minor, Op. 8, No. 12. Refined, amorous, and infused with the spirit of Chopin, the Nocturne had the imprimatur of Horowitz and the alten Romantics at Pollock’s fingertips. The Etude, undeniably, incarnates the grand passion, unbridled erotic energy surging to meet and overcome Chopin’s own prelude in D minor.

The one encore, Chopin’s early Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, Op. Posth., had us recalling the movie The Pianist or the rarified sounds of Maryla Jonas’ first inscriptions on Chopin for American records. Exquisite trills and aerial runs from Pollack invoked the Concerto in F Minor, but no less a world of grace and elegance that ought to be preserved at all costs. ♪

Dr. Gary R. Lemco regularly reviews for
Classical Music Guide. He resides in California

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Re: Pianist Daniel Pollack by Gary Lemco

Post by John F » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:25 pm

Pollack's moments of fame, or near-fame, came at the beginning when he won the bronze medal at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in 1958, the year Van Cliburn won it all, and made his debut with the New York Philharmonic (on tour) four years later. Both made recordings for the Soviet national record company before either had been much heard in their home country. I remember when an imported MK LP of Daniel Pollack playing solo piano music showed up in the record stores. Who and what is this? I thought then and for some time after. Unlike Van Cliburn, Pollack has not made a major career - if any American company has recorded him, I missed it, though his Russian recordings are now on CD. Still, mediocre pianists don't place that high in the Tchaikovsky competition, and I'm therefore not surprised at Gary Lemco's appreciation of his playing more than half a century later.
John Francis

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