Maurizio Pollini is one of the leading figures in contemporary piano. He achieved world renown with his performances of composers from the Romantic repertoire, and has consistently sought to use his talent to promote contemporary music.
Maurizio Pollini's father was an architect and his mother a musician. He began the piano at the age of six with Carlo Lonati. He proved to be exceptionally talented and gave his first concert at the age of 10 in Milan. He then continued his training at the Milan conservatory under Carlo Vidusso. His hard work paid off in 1957 when he won second prize in the Geneva International Music Competition, followed in 1960 by first prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Jury members included Heinrich Neuhaus, Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Rubinstein, who later said "He plays better than any of us". Maurizio Pollini didn't let this accomplishment go to his head. Instead of embarking on a career as a prodigy, he decided to take a break and put his budding career on hold. In 1962, he attended masterclasses by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. He made his real debut as a concert pianist in 1963 in London and Berlin. In 1968, he performed in the United States and in 1970 he performed for the first time with the Berlin Philharmonic. He rapidly forged a name as a modern musician, brilliant in the major 19th repertoire but always staying very close to the score and shunning showiness or exaggerated effects like rubato. Although these traits sometimes made him seem cold, he gained an enthusiastic following among audiences and the press. He began recording for DGG in 1971. His Chopin Studies received worldwide acclaim and his recordings of Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Bartok, as a whole, were showered with awards. His recording of Arnold Schoenberg's complete piano works reveals a fascination with the 20th century repertoire. He performed Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto under the baton of Herbert Von Karajan in 1974 and made his conducting debut at La Scala in 1976. However he very soon abandoned the idea of leading a dual career as concert pianist and conductor: the closest he came, after that, was conducting Mozart concertos from the piano. His appearances as an accompanist are quite rare. He did, however, give a series of concerts with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1977, then with Mstislav Rostropovich in 1979.
Maurizio Pollini is a staunch supporter of social and humanitarian causes, always ready to perform in factories or to play for peace in Vietnam or against dictatorships in Latin America. In 1985, he began performing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He played the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier on a concert tour, then cut a recording of it. In 1993, he played Ludwig van Beethoven's complete Piano Sonatas in Berlin, Munich, New York, Milan and Paris. Throughout this career, Maurizio Pollini has striven to advance the cause of contemporary music. For many years, he has been addressing the relationship between audiences and 20th and 21st century music. In 1995, he created Progetto Pollini, a series of concerts combining contemporary works and "mainstream repertoire". He created Perspectives, on a similar model, at Carnegie Hall in New York. And in 2001, he produced the Kontrapunkte series in Salzburg. That same year, a documentary by Bettina Ehrhardt came out, on the friendly relations between Luigi Nono, Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini. For the Italian pianist, the last few years have been devoted to Beethoven: in 2015, he finished recording the complete Piano Sonatas.
Six landmark dates in the life of Maurizio Pollini:
• 1960: First prize in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw
• 1963: began his career in Europe
• 1971: started to record with DGG
• 1973: Recorded Chopin's Etudes for piano
• 1995: created the Progetto Pollini to promote contemporary music
• 2015: finished recording Beethoven's complete Piano Sonatas
Biography compiled from Radio France Documentation, September 2015