Perahia’s new-minted Chopin

0 of 5 stars

24 Études, Opp.10 & 25

Murray Perahia (piano)

Recorded June 28-July 4, 2001 at Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: October 2002

Each new recording by Murray Perahia is eagerly awaited. Every new interpretation by any great artist of Chopin’s Études is always a pianistic event; the combination of the two is irresistible. An entire week was devoted to this painstaking recording.

Perahia shows the best of the signally poetic temperament he has displayed throughout his career, stiffened with a significant helping of the new fierceness that has characterised his playing since his return to the concert platform few years ago. The opening of the CD is a perfect advertisement – Op.10/1 given a lyricism and softness that belies its entirely straightforward, repetitive melodic shape. The very difficult No.2 is superbly controlled without lacking playfulness and humour.

What marks interpretations of virtuosic music as great is how far the interpreter transcends the notes, how far the performer can imprint his character when those notes are hard enough to play. Perahia succeeds triumphantly. Listen to the deftness of Op.10/5, the ’black key’ study, or the creative emphasis on the left-hand counter-melody in the trio section of Op.25/5 and, above all, the utterly convincing, majestic Op.25/11. This is no ordinary recording, it is one deeply felt and pondered.

The pleasure lies essentially in Perahia’s continual exploration of the sensitive, feminine aspects of these Études, which is relatively rare and at no cost to their validity as a technical challenge. Perahia never fails to explore the musical possibility of each miniature to the full. Perhaps in recognition of the need for virtuosity, Sony’s recording, while eminently natural, is beefy.

While Perahia’s approach is consistent, it is not without idiosyncrasies and, therefore, not as canonical or as Olympian as Pollini or Arrau or as understated as Louis Lortie. I have never heard Op.10/6 so fast, turned into a finger study instead of an exercise in legato, and Perahia does not quite manage to sustain interest in No.7 from the second set, the other ’slow’ study. The quasi-trills in thirds which are the motor of No.25/6 are curiously accented on the upper notes; No 4 from the first set, admirably shaped, is fuzzy at the end, while the ’Revolutionary’ No.12 of Op.10, is a faint-heart at the barricades.

This may not be a first recommendation – Perahia is not quite as authoritative as in his recent Goldberg Variations – but if you have a serious interest in these Himalayan peaks of the keyboard and want to hear these technically demanding works sound original and fresh, Perahia’s CD should not be missed.

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