Murray Perahia's Performance at the University of Arizona
"There are two kinds of great pianist: those who make you aware of their interpretative choices, where part of what you listen to is the brilliance of their thinking; and those where you forget that any interpretation is involved. Murray Perahia is of the second kind."
- Guy Dammann for the Guardian, reviewing a performance by Murray Perahia in London almost 3 years ago.
On Tuesday, March 10th 2015, celebrated pianist Murray Perahia performed at University of Arizona's Centennial Hall.
I attended with cautious expectations of Perahia's emotional versatility.
He opened with J.S. Bach's French Suite No 6.
It was perfectly sublime.
Perahia's great strengths: indomitable control, impeccable calculation, balance and clarity of voice. The aim of his phrases is so true and their denouement perfectly tapered, never once missing the mark.
The Bach was followed by Haydn, building to a fevered Beethoven Sonata (No. 26.)
From my second-row seat I was afforded a perfect line of sight to Perahia's feet and the pedals. Let me tell you: he is not shy about using them! He adjusts the damper by the minutest degree, pedals with rabbitlike quickness on sixteenths (!!) and, more than once lifted his foot into the air only to slam down with such force I was momentarily concerned for the structural integrity of the pedal assembly itself.
"My ears are smoking!" were the words uttered by a gentleman in front of me, to my great amusement and accord.
Following intermission, we were treated to Cesar Franck and Chopin.
Cold is not the word for Perahia's performances of Chopin. Perhaps "uncharacteristic" is best. I barely recognized either the Scherzo or the Nocturne as Chopin. The same naked calculation which served Perahia's treatment of counterpoint so well seemed to flounder somewhat in the Romantic repertoire. It was interesting to listen to, but would not be my first choice of interpretation.
Following thunderous and enthusiastic applause, Perahia returned for not one, but two encores. First was Chopin's Nocturne Op. 15, No. 1, (no comment) but that second encore...! Perahia startled me with his terrifically playful delivery of the Schubert Impromptu Op. 90, No. 2. This was perhaps my favorite of the evening. Little coincidence that it seemed to be Perahia's, as well.
In those moments, Perahia seemed uplifted. He played more freely. The descending triplets were all but unbridled laughter, and a mischievous smile transformed his granite aspect.