Ivo Pogorelich excites debate and controversy today as much as he did in 1980 at the Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition when Martha Argerich left the jury in protest when the young Croatian pianist was eliminated in the 3rd round. She described him then as a genius. Purists may disagree. I was fortunate to see his Edinburgh Festival debut a few years later (it was either 1985 or 1986) when this 28 year old dazzled the audience with his energy and bold, brash performance style.
After a long period away from the concert hall, Pogorelich is back at the Festival with a programme of Chopin, Liszt, Sibelius and Ravel. Wearing black tie and tails, (a razor cut replacing his former shoulder length, dark wavy hair), this is a more mature, conservative image. The first piece is Chopin's Nocturne in E which is played at a snail's pace, gentle and languid. A beautifully romantic rendition. Likewise Chopin's Sonata no 3 is masterly, his long fingers gliding gracefully over the keys with a delicate touch and imaginative mood.
The Mephisto Waltz by Liszt is based on a poem about Faust and Mephistopheles visiting a village inn for a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery, captured here with dramatic pace and rhythmic musicality. Another waltz next, Sibelius's Valse Triste, a narrative-led piece illustrating a dreamlike dance of death. Finally Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit was played with brilliant artistry, as he attacks the keyboard with fast and furious finesse, hand over hand, the melody flowing like water in soft reflective moments.
Pogorelich is said by some critics to deconstruct musical composition with unusual change of pace and tone. His stylised, expressive technique is unique and personal where every chord and note is played with precision, some notes almost silent at times as he occasionally hunches over the keyboard deep in thought. This was a majestic, inspirational performance rich in colour and passionate intensity.
One performance on 29 August at 8pm.