Murray Perahia in New York

Piano Sonata in D, Hob.XVI:24
Moments musicaux, D780
Piano Sonata quasi una fantasia in C sharp minor, Op.27/2 (Moonlight)
Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op.26
Impromptu in F sharp, Op.36; Scherzo in B minor, Op.20

Murray Perahia (piano)

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Barnette

Reviewed: 4 November, 2012
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City

Murray Perahia. ©Sony Music EntertainmentMurray Perahia was to have played this recital at Carnegie Hall on November 2, but Hurricane Sandy interfered and toppled over a crane boom across the street from the building, forcing authorities to close off the surrounding area. Luckily Avery Fisher Hall was available two days after the original date. There was a sprinkling of empty seats, and by the end of the evening one had to pity the ticket-holders who were unable to attend.

This recital was one of the special occasions where everything simply felt ‘right’ and organic; this was skilful, beautiful and communicative music-making. Perahia is a storyteller par excellence. Schubert’s Moments musicaux could as well have been entitled ‘Songs without Words’. Perfectly voiced, Perahia kept unfolding the narrative, sometimes an aria, at other times a duet, and always in contact with the audience. The first of these pieces also highlighted Perahia’s sensitivity to major-minor shifts and modulation – as he had also demonstrated in the Haydn Sonata. One kept noticing the subtle emphasis he attached to these harmonic events, never the schoolmaster to point them out, but acknowledging them by delicate changes of color or a mere hint of rubato. Every expressive detail – be it harmonic, melodic or rhythmic – was always a part of a whole.

The first movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata was a case in point. Heeding Beethoven’s instructions of “Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino” (One must play this whole [movement] very delicately and without dampers) Perahia spun it forward as one extended phrase with just the slightest inflections. Far removed from the music which has been maltreated by generations of piano students, it emerged anew as an intimate jewel, a counterweight to the emphatic finale. Played with a minimum of pedal, the last movement was driven by a propulsive energy which aimed directly at the cadenza-like climax.

As heaven-storming as this movement was, so Perahia gave us the classicism of Haydn – expressive, but never breaking out of its stylistic framework – and the lyricism of Schubert. Each clearly had his own voice, and by the time we got to Schumann and Chopin, Perahia added yet more individual colors. Faschingsschwank aus Wien is rich in massed chords, which were perfectly voiced and balanced, and appropriately light and bouncy in the ‘Scherzino’. The ‘Romanze’ also proved to be a ‘Song without Words’, and in the final two movements Perahia displayed delicacy, but also great waves of sound without ever overtaxing the sonic capabilities of his wonderful sounding Steinway. Chopin brought further displays of virtuosity, thoughtful musicianship, and sensitive, communicative artistry, and also the most exquisite sotto voce playing. One could only sit back, marvel, and rue that this recital was nearing its end. Luckily, Perahia prolonged the evening with Schubert’s A flat Impromptu (D899/4) and Chopin’s Nocturne in F (Op.15/1).

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