I'm puzzled that no one seemed bothered to review this recording... but it's undoubtedly, a classic, both in Pollini's personal recording history and among other recordings of the preludes. Yeah, the preludes are the sort of thing that necessarily gets a different treatment with each different artist... but despite the subjectivity I cannot help but agree that this IS the standard! It's a recording that I constantly go back to in order to get a sense of the "overarching idea" of each piece... As it seems to me Pollini more than anyone else succeeds in bringing out the underlining structure of the music. Yes, Pollini is often criticised for being a bit too "cold", but there's no evidence here whatsoever. Listen to Nos. 9, 18 & 24 and it's amazing how much passion and tension is built up under seamless control, and the unrelenting rigour here only brings out more the power and heroism of Chopin.
If you don't care much for Pollini as a Chopin interpreter than think twice after hearing this!
One of the issues here is not so much the playing, which is technically assured and the overall grasp of the structure of the music is breathtaking, all of which marked out the Etudes as an iconic recording, it is a shift to a less dramatic closer sound quality.
If this was designed to match the more intimate emotionally frayed nature of the works then it does not succeed in the way more modern charged recordings by Lugansky and Pogorelich which give immediate impact.
Now re-listening to Pollini's performances, it's all there, especially the fabulous touch (take No 23) but differently presented. As with the famous Opus 10 No 3 Etude, there is no reaching for sentimentality or effect, but nevertheless everything is magically conveyed in the most sensitive and precise pianism possible.
In fact, it is beyond what is possible. I totally agree with the other reviewers.