- Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54
- Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36
- Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major ("A Thérèse"), Op. 78
Pianist Ivo Pogorelich has concertized and seen some of his performances recorded, but this album, released in 2019, was his first studio release in two decades. Pogorelich has always been more popular with the public than with critics and the musical establishment, although he has had strong defenders such as Martha Argerich (who resigned from a Warsaw prize jury when he was eliminated in an early round). This album, indeed, was commercially successful right out of the box, and it delivers everything Pogorelich's fans might have hoped for. He is a total freethinker, which is great if you like him, idiosyncratic if not, but he's certainly never dull. The program begins with a pair of two-movement Beethoven sonatas that have always been seen as representative of the lyrical, pastoral side of his output. Plunge right in and sample the first track, the first movement of the "Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54." Marked "In tempi di minuetto," this movement is generally taken as gently humorous, quiet, perhaps a bit satirical. Pogorelich's reading is anything but these things. The second movement's octaves careen by in hard, almost violent key strikes. The "Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major" is only a trifle less unconventional, with tempo fluctuations that appear nowhere in the score and give the entire sonata a Chopin-like feel. Nor does the more detailed notation of Rachmaninov reduce Pogorelich's freedom at the keyboard. The Rachmaninov "Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36," can fairly be said to be freakishly slow, clocking in at almost 30 minutes. The slow movement is positively funereal. You may have objections to all this, but there are two things to keep in mind. First, there's no evidence of any weakening of Pogorelich's technical skills; you can feel sure that everything sounds the way it does because he wants it to. And second, and more important, Pogorelich comes out of a school where such dramatic experiments have been not only accepted, but even expected: he was a student (and later the husband) of Georgian pianist Aliza Kezeradze, who was a student of Alexander Siloti, who was a student of Liszt. It's likely that Liszt, if he could have heard Pogorelich, would have wondered what all the fuss was about. As for those of us today, this, like earlier Pogorelich releases, will inspire love and hatred in roughly equal amounts, but on balance it's good to have him back.