Pollini's traversal of Chopin's 19 Nocturnes (he leaves out the pair of posthumous ones) is one of his finest recordings in years. His long-lined yet detailed performances are comparable to the very different ones that have long stood at the pinnacle of recorded sets. Not as serene as Artur Rubinstein's, not as philosophical as Claudio Arrau's, nor as warm as Ivan Moravec's, Pollini's interpretations have their own allure. One is the way he shapes the melodies with a natural flow enhanced by his tonal beauty, less lean and streamlined than his usual way with Romantic music.
There's nothing at all wrong with Maurizio Pollini's 2009 performance of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. The Italian pianist's intellectual lucidity, interpretive clarity, and technical virtuosity are apparent in every prelude and fugue, and his probing insights and penetrating analysis inform every note. However, there is almost nothing right with the sound quality of the recording. The piano sounds too distant, making it hard to hear precisely what Pollini is doing, but oddly, the ambient sound is too present, making every extraneous noise too loud. One should not hear the pedals being pressed and lifted, much less the clatter of the hammers and the twanging of the strings above the sound of the music. Worse yet, one can hear what sounds like every breath Pollini takes nearly as loudly as every note he plays. These are all grievous flaws that should have been eliminated, and their presence fatally undermines the brilliance of Pollini's performances. A reengineered version of these performances would be most welcome, but the present recording is so flawed that it virtually destroys Pollini's playing.