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Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini dies at 82

By AFP - Mar 25,2024 - Last updated at Mar 25,2024

Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini receives a medal at the awards ceremony of the 22nd Praemium Imperiale Awards in Tokyo on October 13, 2010 (AFP photo)

ROME, Italy — Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini, a virtuoso of Chopin and Beethoven who enjoyed a decades-long collaboration with La Scala, died Saturday age 82, the Milan opera house announced.

He had been in poor health in recent years and obliged to cancel some concerts.

La Scala called the pianist “one of the great musicians of our time and a fundamental reference in the artistic life of the theatre for over 50 years”.

From 1958 to his last recital in February 2023, Pollini played La Scala 168 times, it said, not including countless workshops with students and conferences.

“Pollini was an interpreter capable of revolutionising the perception of composers such as Chopin, Debussy and Beethoven himself, and of promoting ... listening to the historical avant-gardes, above all Schönberg, and the music of today,” said La Scala.

Born January 5, 1942 in Milan into a family of artists, Pollini stormed the classical music scene in 1960 where, aged 18 and the youngest person in the contest, he won the Warsaw Chopin Competition.

Arthur Rubinstein, president of the jury, was famously to have said that the young prodigy “already plays better than any of us”.

Half a century later Pollini corrected Rubinstein’s quote, saying “I played ‘technically’ better than any member of the jury.”

“I always thought he said that to make fun of the colleagues on the jury. Someone doctored that statement by removing the ‘technically’ and it became an exaggerated compliment,” Pollini said in a 2014 documentary.

Instead of embarking straight onto the concert scene, Pollini put his career on hold to study, explaining that performing right away would have been “a little premature for me”.

In the late 60s, Pollini participated in improvised concerts in factories and student programmes for students and workers at La Scala, conducted by his friend Claudio Abbado.

Pollini made his first American tour in 1968.

From the 1970s to the 90s, he made a string of recordings with the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label, while maturing into an acclaimed interpreter of Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms.

Pollini’s albums earned numerous awards, including a Grammy in 2007 for best instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra) for Chopin: Nocturnes.

He is survived by his son and wife Marilisa.

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