Concerto’s opening at a fair lick, a hot-foot sprinter embellishing the line with taste and affecting a little ritardando at 3’21” (just as the mood momentarily brightens) a la Edwin Fischer. Elsewhere, he is very much his own man, intensifying his tone for rising sequences (at around 5’06”) or softening it to the most rarefied murmur (as from 4’54” into the third movement). His command of colour is as striking here as it was on his recent CD of the Goldberg Variations (Sony Classical, 12/00), especially in the Adagio. When it comes to the treacherous chordal cadenza at 6’11” into the finale, Perahia keeps up the momentum without either flagging or straining his tone.
As for the E major and A major Concertos, elegance is more of the essence than fire, but there too Perahia delivers. He has a way of accenting without jabbing the keys, tracing counterpoint while keeping the top line well to the fore. And how nice to hear the warming tone of a theorbo (bass lute) in the E major Concerto’s central Siciliano, a beautiful performance, more ornamental than cantorial, in keeping with the more decorative nature of the music. Tracks 6 and 7 (the E major’s finale and the A major’s opening Allegro) provide cheering examples of Perahia’s buoyant way with Bach’s faster music. Rivals are plentiful, but credible contenders at this level of interpretation are rare. Andrei Gavrilov ‘outGoulds’ Gould with his dry staccatissimo, and Gould himself was a good deal livelier in concert than on his rather sober commercial recording under Leonard Bernstein.
Sviatoslav Richter plays with incredible control while keeping every note alive, but some might find his manner too austere. And while Edwin Fischer is consistently spontaneous, he is rather less elegant than Perahia – and his version of the A major Concerto sounds to me as if it’s ‘Busonified’ (or something very similar). Andras Schiff, like Perahia, commands a wide range of colours, though the binding force of Perahia’s concentration – always a boon in his latest recordings – leaves the stronger impression. The carefully balanced Sony recordings keep the sound frame tight and lively. All in all, this counts as yet another exceptional Bach-Perahia release. I await Volume 2 of the concertos with impatience. Rob Cowan (5/01)
Bach Keyboard Concertos - No 3 in D, BWV1054; No 5 in F minor, BWV1056; No 6 in F, BWV1057; No 7 in G minor, BWV1058 Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Murray Perahia pf Sony Classical F SK89860 (54’ • DDD)
30 Murray Perahia
Concertos Nos 3, 5 & 7 – selected comparison:
Gould, Columbia SO, Golschmann (SONY) SM2K52591 Follow-up albums don’t always fulfil the promise of their predecessors, but this one certainly does. More than fulfils it, in fact, especially in the D major Concerto (i.e. the Second Violin Concerto in E) where numerous subtle emphases help focus aspects of Bach’s writing: just one example is the rising motive at 3’40” into the first movement that overlays the reprise of the first theme. As well as being immensely vital, Perahia’s Bach is profoundly pianistic, not in any exhibitionistic sense, but in the way tempo, dynamics and nuance register without undue exaggeration. The soloist’s accentuated bassline at 0’57” into the first movement of the Fifth Concerto, so important to Bach’s harmonic ground plan, is a further instance, and so is the fractional dip in tempo at 1’52” into the finale of the same work, a telling expressive touch. In the Largo the Academy’s harpsichordist selects a lute stop, which adds a nice touch of additional colour to the texture.
Perahia’s staccato never loses quality, even when soft – try the opening movement of the Sixth Concerto. And yet he is just as capable of increasing the pressure as he sees fit: listen out for his brightening tone at 5’16” into the same movement, or the extraordinary dexterity of his finger work from around 1’45” into the finale, a fair match for any fiddler tackling the same passage in the parallel Fourth Brandenburg Concerto. The only gesture I wasn’t quite sure about – it seems just a trifle mannered – occurs at 2’01” into the slow movement of the Seventh Concerto (i.e. the A minor Violin Concerto) where, instead of playing the expected trill, Perahia repeats a lone G sharp, then accelerates into a trill. Then again it is a way of sustaining the note (such a wonderful moment in the violin version), and if my long-term reaction to Perahia’s previous Bach concertos disc (see above) is anything to go by, it’ll probably grow on me. Rob Cowan (6/02)
Chopin Etudes — Op 10; Op 25 Murray Perahia pf Sony Classical SK61885 (56’ • DDD)
Award Winner fire-storms and in, for example, Etudes Nos 1 and 4 from Op 10, you are made more aware than ever of an incomparable mix of poetry and precision. Perahia’s may be a wholly modern voice yet he truly speaks in the spirit of his revered masters of the past, of Cortot and Fischer in particular, and this, allied with his immaculate infinitely polished and shaded pianism, gives his performances the rarest distinction and quality.
How superb and unfaltering is his mastery in No 1, that magnificent curtain-raiser to Op 10, how magical his improvisatory touch in its closing page. His textural translucency and musical breathing, his rubato in No 3, like that of Rubinstein, is that of a great and natural singer of the keyboard.
No 8 is delightfully rumbustious and just when you note a touch of evasion in his rapid spin through the morbid near-Wagnerian chromaticism of No 6 you find yourself relishing his cool tempo, a musical ease and flexibility that give new meaning to Chopin’s prescribed con molto espressione. On the other hand No 7 from Op 25 unfolds with the truest, most memorable sense of its lento elegy. Perahia realises the mountain echoes and final desolate peal of bells in No 9 from Op 10 – its pulsing agitation deeply underlined – and where else have you heard a more impassioned or articulate Revolutionary Etude?
Faced with artistry of this calibre, criticism falls silent; one can only listen and wonder at such unalloyed perfection. Personally, I would never want to be without Cortot’s inimitable recording yet Perahia’s is the finest of all modern discs of the Etudes. Sony’s sound captures all of his artistry; hopefully, recordings of the Trois Nouvelles Etudes, the Waltzes, Scherzos, Mazurkas et al are a not too distant prospect. Bryce Morrison (11/02)
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No 5 in D, BWV1050. Concerto for Flute, Violin, Harpsichord in A minor, BVVV1044. Concerto in the Italian style, ‘Italian Concerto’, BWV971 Jaime Martin l Kenneth Sillito vn Jakob Lindberg theo Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Murray Perahia pf Sony Classical SK87326 (55’ • DDD)
CLASSICAL MUSIC AWARDS
Cortot (6/92) (HMV) 767359-2 Once faced with injury and the possible end of his career, Murray Perahia has made a glorious recovery. Here he returns to his beloved Chopin after his recent and superlative Bach recordings, doubly conscious of one composer’s tribute to another.
From Perahia there is order and lucidity at the heart of even Chopin’s most audacious
The spirit of Prades and Marlboro is here revisited, with Murray Perahia first among equals and the whole production infused with a sense of spontaneous musical interplay. To take just one telling example, go to 3’42” into the first movement of the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, where Perahia cues a breathtaking diminuendo then boldly builds towards the recapitulated opening theme. The sense of gramophone.co.uk