Maurizio Pollini: The Life and Times of a Celebrated Pianist April 09 2024


Maurizio Pollini Autograph


[CLICKABLE IMAGE] A young Maurizio Pollini

Maurizio Pollini was a famed Italian pianist. He was born on 5 January 1942 and died on 23 March 2024 at the age of 82. For the latter half of the 20th century, Pollini was hailed as one of the greats of the keyboard. He was well-known for his technical brilliance and cerebral take on the classics, particularly Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy.

Pollini would later become well known for his juxtaposition of old and new by adding the Second Viennese School, a group of early 20th-century Italian composers, to his expansive repertoire.

Pollini was an anomaly in the music world thanks to his intellectual approach to music. But he had an illustrious, six-decade career, with multiple awards, accolades, and even a Grammy Award.

Let’s look closer at the life and times of the brilliant pianist, Maurizio Pollini.



Maurizio Pollini Autograph

Pollini was born in Milan, Italy in 1942, to parents Gino and Renata Pollini. His father was a violinist and a leading architect in post-war Italy. Pollini's mother had studied singing and piano. Artistry ran wider in the Pollini family, as Pollini’s mother was the sister of Fausto Melotti, the famous modernist sculptor.

[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Promotional Studio Photograph of Pollini by Deutsche Grammophon

A young Pollini began taking piano lessons at the age of five. He studied at the Milan Conservatory under Carlo Vidusso and later, the great Chilean pianist, Carlo Lonat. He would complete his studies in 1959 and seal his schooling with a performance of Chopin’s Études in the Sala Verdi Theatre.

Pollini won many awards as a young pianist, but it was his victory as an 18-year-old at the VI International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw that set him on a trajectory of classical acclaim and success.

Speaking to Pollini’s astounding technical and musical abilities, Artur Rubinstein, the chairman of the competition, proclaimed “That boy plays better than any of us jurors.”



Maurizio Pollini Signed PLaybill

Pollini’s massive success as an 18-year-old at the Warsaw competition was a prelude to the first of many controversial decisions he would make as a concert pianist. After his undeniable success at the competition, Pollini withdrew from the international concert circuit.

Instead of heading out on the tour circuit, Pollini decided to expand his repertoire and develop other cultural interests. To further his musical abilities, Pollini studied privately under Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, another virtuoso pianist.

[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Playbill for a concert at Teatro La Scala featuring Maurizio Pollini, under the baton of Claudio Abbado (1988)

Despite his decision to delay his soloist career, Maurizio Pollini had a regular performance schedule by the time he made his full return to the concert circuit in 1968. But his regular schedule was only a third of the typical 100 performances per year of a soloist.

His return to the stage at the end of the 1960s coincided with a signed contract with the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) label that would launch a series of award-winning records for the wunderkind.



Maurizio Pollini Autograph

Pollini’s great talent was like honey to flies for the commercial side of the entertainment industry. But despite being approached with numerous record deals that any rising star in the entertainment industry would leap at, the wunderkind was not easily caught in the fly trap. He also happened to be a painstaking perfectionist.

[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Maurizio Pollini in his younger years

He recorded two sets of Chopin Etudes with EMI Recording Studios in the early '60s. But he did not let the label release the recordings until 2011 when they were praised for their fresh sound and spontaneity.

Pollini was reserved, yet ambitious, throughout his career. He would win many awards for his recordings throughout his career. He was nominated for many Grammy awards, and won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) for Chopin: Nocturnes in 2007.

One reviewer of Pollini’s 1982 CD release from the recording studio Deutsche Grammophon, whom he would exclusively work with for five decades, stated that, “Human beings are not supposed to be able to play the piano like Pollini… Another performance of the most phenomenal precision and acute expressive poise, every note precisely weighted, colored, above all felt”.


Cover for his LP Album performing Brahms' Piano Concerto No.2 signed by him (right) and his friend, conductor Claudio Abbado (left)



Pollini was known throughout his life as a leftwing idealist and began intertwining music and politics in his career in the early 1960s. This led him to one of his earliest forms of musical activism: impromptu concerts for factory workers.

Many of these concerts were conducted by Pollini’s good friend, legendary conductor Claudio Abbado. The left-leaning pair also led a cycle of affordable concerts at La Scala, the historic Italian opera house, for employees and students to enjoy.

Luigi Nono, the avant-garde classical composer, was another colleague of Pollini who would work with the pianist in music-led politics.

In 2011, Pollini told the Guardian that, “Art itself, if it is really great, has a progressive aspect that is needed by a society, even if it seems absolutely useless in strictly practical terms. In a way, art is a little like the dreams of a society. They seem to contribute little, but sleeping and dreaming are vitally important in that a human couldn’t live without them, in the same way a society cannot live without art.”

Music as a form of civic engagement remained a cornerstone of Pollini’s life. One of his last performances was at the Milan Conservatory in May 2022 to raise funds for the war in Ukraine with a charity concert featuring Schubert and Chopin.



Pollini made his career about stripping away the performer from the performance. He would rarely engage with the audience when he played, instead focussing on playing the piano with the clinical but awe-inspiring talent that he possessed. His methods allowed audiences to hear the music in its purest forms.

Even though some called Maurizio Pollini’s work cold and calculating, most found his music to be sweeping, powerful, and undeniably authentic.

[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Program for a recital of the star Italian pianist at Carnegie Hall, 1988, signed by him

He was known for his renditions of the classics, but he went against the grain of the music world over and over again throughout his career. One instance of this was in the 1990s. He engaged in an ambitious project to perform Beethoven's piano sonatas in chronological order over seven nights, to provide the ultimate immersive experience.

He would then go on to create “Progetto Pollini,” a series of concerts that juxtaposed the traditional classics in his repertoire, with newer compositions in classical music from the early 20th century.

Pollini said this about his choice to juxtapose the new and the old, “I grew up in a house with art and artists. Old works and modern works co-existed as part of life. It went without saying”.

The project came to life in 1995, at the Salzburg Festival. It was later revived in New York from 1999 to 2001 under a new title, Perspectives. He did it again in 2003 in Rome. Progetto Pollini was a defining part of modernist music.

In 2002, Pollini told Gramophone, “It is true that I look for and try to uncover what seems to me the essence of a work, its truth.”

In 2011, he gave a series of concerts in London where he delivered a performance of the entirety of his repertoire. The extensive repertoire included Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy and Stockhausen.



Pollini continued to play throughout his life, but his failing physical health eventually began to take a toll on his performances. In 2012, he canceled a tour in the US, citing his poor health. However, he did another tour of Europe in 2014. He continued to perform, but canceled another concert in 2022 at the Salzburg Festival due to heart problems.

Maurizio Pollini died on 23 March 2024 at the age of 82. Pollini is survived by his wife Marilisa, and his son Daniele. Pollini’s son followed in his father's footsteps and is an acclaimed pianist and conductor.

Maurizio Pollini Autograph

[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Maestro Pollini studying a score



- Pianists Autographs & Memorabilia 

- Concert Programs Signed by Pianists



- Percy Grainger: The Greatest Pianist and Champion of Folk Music

- Famous Pianists: The Top 18 Classical Pianist of All Time

- William Kapell: Honest American Pianist of All Time

Anton Rubinstein: Talented Pianist and Educator

- Radu Lupu, A Romanian Pianist, Has Died At Age 76

Pianist Leon Fleisher Just Passed Away

Farewell to: Van Cliburn, American Classical Pianist



Interested in authentic autographs?


Tamino Autographs @2020 - All rights reserved.