Perahia's piano pyrotechnics

Music Review

April 25, 2003|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Murray Perahia may be more of a medium than a pianist. When he plays, it's as if he is somehow channeling the essence of a composer, not merely articulating notes of a score.

Bach materializes before us, super-sized, just the way we like to think of him - ingenious, playful, utterly sincere. Beethoven struts his obstinately individualistic stuff, daring us to question his methods or his motives. Schubert charms and surprises us, sometimes worries us a little.

Such, at any rate, was the impression Wednesday night as Perahia performed music by those three men in a recital with the Shriver Hall Concert Series. The pianist was in riveting form, exploring the structural nooks and crannies of each piece, producing a wide array of tone colors with painterly finesse, unleashing Shakespearean combinations of drama and poetry.

Perahia opened the program with the brilliant intricacy of Bach's Partita No. 4 in D major. There was a startling clarity in his touch, terrific variety in his phrasing. The galloping movements exuded an almost giddy air; the Allemande and Sarabande were lovingly sculpted.

Beethoven's Sonata in A major, Op. 101, pays homage to Bach's language of counterpoint, while simultaneously nudging open a door to the future, a future less concerned with strict musical rules and more open to extrovert expression.

Perahia seemed to delight in the often quirky rhythmic and dynamic jolts of the piece, producing an extra degree of tension that became downright explosive in the fugal finale. He applied ample elegance to the opening movement and made much of the unexpectedly dark yearnings that precede the finale.

Schubert's last year turned out to be one of his most creative. The Sonata in A major, D. 959, is a case in point. It reflects his uncanny ability to sustain long musical thoughts (the first movement packs in a whole symphony's worth of themes, moods and developmental activity) and his unusually deep well of lyrical inspiration. The second movement, a melancholy reverie interrupted by an anguished storm, effectively encapsulates the emotional weight of early romanticism.

I wouldn't have minded a little more fire from Perahia in some places, a gentler touch in others (the opening of that haunting second movement, for example, seemed rather heavy-handed). But his intuitive feeling for pacing and shading revealed the sonata's beauty in rich detail.

Encores by Schubert and Chopin capped an evening of intimate, involving, revelatory music-making.

By the way, if the woman in the balcony who rustled a plastic bag in her lap during the recital thinks no one noticed or cared, she is as mistaken as the guy on the other side of the aisle whose watch emitted an electronic beep every minute on the minute. If only people had to pass through an intelligence detector before being admitted into concerts.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.