Less than 10 months ago, Ivo Pogorelich came to Ambassador Auditorium and gave a Mussorgsky/Chopin recital remarkable for its musical distortion, for its pounding, for its vanity. It was, in a word, awful.
Wednesday night at Ambassador an altogether different pianist showed up. The program said that his name was Ivo Pogorelich, and he certainly looked like Ivo Pogorelich. He walked like him (zombie-style), bowed like him (zombie-style). But he didn't sound at all like that man from 10 months ago.
The man on stage this time played like an angel. Make that a god. He could do no wrong. He was in the finest of fettles. The music sang and danced and sighed and roared and shimmered and declaimed and made beautiful sense. This was Olympian music-making. Would the real Ivo Pogorelich please stand up?
The 36-year-old Croat's program featured two Mozart sonatas and a fantasia on the first half, and Schumann's gargantuan Symphonic Etudes, Opus 13, on the second.
The Mozart proved no mere warm-up. To the Fantasia, K. 397, and the Sonatas K. 283 and K. 331, he brought a microscopic uncovering of detail, a delicate, expressive and constantly varied touch and an unswerving view of the long line. Though finely, carefully wrought, his Mozart never bogged down; it chattered and sang, it kicked up its heels and offered knowing asides. This was the Mozart of the great operatic ensembles, speaking through the keyboard. It was fascinating, and just a little exhausting.
There were simply no technical obstacles for Pogorelich in the demanding Symphonic Etudes, which he played with an almost unbelievable high polish and finesse, glowing and massive in tone. This while not shying away from the work's emotional and dramatic demands. He seemed to wring every ounce of poetry out of the music, and stormed through the allegros. One occasionally had to wait patiently while he deliberated, but overall this was Romanticism combined with discipline and deep thinking.
With little coaxing, the pianist gave Chopin's B-flat minor Scherzo in encore--an immaculate, increasingly exciting account. It almost looked as if he were enjoying himself. You should have been there.