After his recent excursions into the Romantic repertory, Murray Perahia has now returned to a great early love. Few of us will quickly forget his recordings, with the ECO, of Mozart’s complete piano concertos. Now comes this initial step into the already hotly competitive world of Mozart’s sonatas for solo piano. And though not in fact advertised as volume one of a new cycle, I’m told that if we keep our fingers crossed there will be more to come. Predictably his piano playing is again of exquisite finesse, with never a harsh or muddied sound in the entire 64 minutes. But what counts for so much more is what I can only describe as the human insight behind his fingers. There is an intimacy in his phrasing that, without any infringement of period style, somehow makes each sonata as revealing as pages of a personal diary.
For a launching, he could scarcely have chosen better known or loved works than the A minor and A major Sonatas. I liked the breadth and poise with which he meets the disquiet of the A minor Sonata’s opening Allegro maestoso, and similarly his ability to convey the urgency of the finale without rushing it. The slow movement has an Elysian serenity and purity of expression, though there is no lack of tension in its middle section’s minor key stress. As for the A major Sonata, bringing sunshine after storm, he caresses its opening movement with a sensuously singing tonal beauty that constantly reminds us of Mozart’s delighted recent discovery of Stein’s new pianos and their expressive powers. Just now and again, though, I wondered if he was a little over-inclined to melt – in tone and sometimes in rhythm too – rather than carrying through in strength to the last bar of certain of the variations. His ornamentation is of pin-point clarity and piquancy throughout, and I loved the bite of his rhythm and of his wrenched, left hand broken chords in the concluding Turkish Rondo.
The composite F major Sonata brings acute reminders of his discretion in the matter of when not to observe repeats. Here, his relish of the first movement’s contrapuntal ingenuities and his colouring of imitative strands is a delight. The concluding Allegretto he takes at a leisurely tempo ideal for it as originally envisaged, in 1786, as an independent rondo. But I did wonder if a slightly livelier speed would have helped on its reincarnation here as the finale of sonata. Joan Chissell (12/92)
Schubert Winterreise, D911 Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau bar Murray Perahia pf
26 Murray Perahia
Sony Classical (73 discs) 88691 91256-2
Totally immersed as he has always been in the protagonist’s torments (as I recall from even so early a reading as one at the old Kingsway Hall around 1952), FischerDieskau manages to create before us the many feelings evoked by the lonely traveller’s surroundings and his reactions to them. Over his face, without any sense of false histrionics, the story is vividly told and felt so that now the failings occasioned by the passing years fall into perspective and we can enjoy, if that’s the word for a performance of this cycle, the fruits of
‘Now that Fischer-Dieskau has retired precipitately, this becomes a historic document of great importance’
a singer who has lived inside the amazing work for so long. His last companion on his journey among many distinguished pianists, is Murray Perahia who, perhaps more than any other except Moore, moves with the singer, through each new experience by dint of his way of seeing and hearing the accompaniment to each song as a unified entity.
Fischer-Dieskau may work with a broader brush and on a bigger scale than Schubert would have expected or even wanted for so intimate a cycle: dynamic changes are many and huge, the treatment of the music very free, taking language to the limits of its possibilities. But he is knowledgeable enough an artist to stay just the right side of melodramatics. By the end the effect of his unique personality on the work is wholly mesmeric. Now that he has retired precipitately, this becomes a historic document of great importance. Future generations will have ready evidence of why he was considered such a comprehensive interpreter of Schubert and they will listen to his earlier recordings as complementary evidence of what the voice sounded like in its prime. Alan Blyth (4/93)
Chopin Four Ballades. Mazurkas – F minor, Op 7 No 3; A minor, Op 17 No 4; D, Op 33 No 2. Waltzes – E flat, Op 18; A flat, Op 42; C sharp minor, Op 64 No 2. Etudes, Op 10 – No 3 in E; No 4 in C sharp minor. Nocturne in F, Op 15 Murray Perahia pf Sony Classical 88697 64823-2
CLASSICAL MUSIC AWARDS
This Chopin recital represents Murray Perahia’s return to the Sony studios after a two-year absence due to serious injury. So may I start by saying that this is surely the greatest, certainly the richest, of all his many and exemplary recordings. Once again his performances are graced with rare and classic attributes and now, to supreme clarity, tonal elegance and musical perspective, he adds an even stronger poetic profile, a surer sense of the inflammatory rhetoric underpinning Chopin’s surface equilibrium. In other words the vividness and immediacy are as remarkable as the finesse. And here, arguably, is the oblique but telling influence of Horowitz who Perahia befriended during the last months of the old wizard’s life. Listen to the First Ballade’s second subject and you will hear rubato like the most subtle pulsing or musical breathing. Try the opening of the Third and you will note an ideal poise and lucidity, something rarely achieved in these outwardly insouciant pages.
Then there is the glorious Fourth and final Ballade in a performance as subtly gauged as any on record. Here Perahia achieves a fluidity of line and impetus that never compromise or sacrifice his sense of superfine and exploratory detail; and what other pianist possesses such an acute aural and rhythmic sensitivity? From Perahia the waltzes are marvels of liquid brilliance and urbanity. You would have to return to 1950 and Lipatti (EMI, 7/89) for a comparable quality though, frankly, even he hardly achieved such an enchanting lilt or buoyancy, such a beguiling sense of light and shade. In the mazurkas, too, Perahia’s tiptoe delicacy and tonal irridescence (particularly in Op 7 No 3 in F minor) make the music dance and spin as if caught in some magical hallucinatory haze.
Finally, two contrasting Etudes, and whether in ardent lyricism (Op 10 No 3) or shot-from-guns virtuosity (Op 10 No 4) Perahia’s playing is sheer perfection. The recording beautifully captures his instantly recognizable, glistening sound world as well as the immense grandeur of his conceptions. Rarely in my experience has such a truly transcendental pianism (he has every tint and colour of the spectrum at his fingertips) and such innate poetry been so unforgettably combined. Welcome back Murray Perahia; you have been sorely missed. Bryce Morrison (12/94)