07 April, 2009

Concert Review: Murray Perahia

Concert Review: Murray Perahia

March 31, 2009
Avery Fisher Hall
Murray Perahia

Read the New York Times review

Unlike the NYT critic, and like my pianist neighbors, I had mixed feelings about this recital.

Perahia prior to his hand injury was a pianist who played most things very smoothly and with beautiful sonority. I never for once doubted his pianistic mastery, but neither did I think he got very deep into the music. The Perahia now, as heard in this concert, surprised me in many respects.

The opening Bach Partita No. 1 for me came off the best. After the plainer Prelude, Perahia brought a good rhythm and refined colors to the various dance movements, even a touch of pathos in the Sarabande. The ending Gigue was magnificently chracterful. If the tempo was a little surpisingly fast here and there, I was not bothered. Overall, as in his recordings, this was fluent Bach.

The Mozart K332 was nicely played and sprinkled with deft touches, but I missed a songfulness that should be in the music. Perahia played so forcefully at times that one could have mistaken Mozart for Beethoven, and the concluding allegro assai was taken rather breathlessly. The ensuing Beethoven Appasionata was flawlessly played but, again, here one missed a sense of strife and conquest while awashed in a sea of sound.

I found the reading of Brahms' Handel Variations rather empty at the core, but then I have never attuned myself to this piece.

Judging from this concert, in the word of my neighbor, Perahia is now into the virtuoso thing, playing faster in general. While he gave us many beautiful details along the way, as a whole the interpretations were not particularly memorable. What is interesting to me is that, compared to when he was young, there's a lot more iron and steel in Perahia now, and that's good. What I'd hope for is that he finds a way to harness that strength while maintaining his poetic side.

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