Living legend of the piano Murray Perahia records two benchmark sonatas by Beethoven for the first time in his career. Long renowned for his performances of this composer, Perahia’s brand new recording pairs together two of the most radically ground-breaking of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, in a release that is sure to be a crown jewel of the Beethoven discography.
Listening to Murray Perahia's 2002 recordings of Schubert's last three piano sonatas, one is reminded all over again how great the works are, how dramatic and heroic the C minor is, how lyrical and passionate the A major is, and how morbid and sublime the B flat major is. Unfortunately, one is also reminded all over again of how limited an interpreter Perahia is, how he can play the notes of the C minor but miss their depths, how he can sing the melodies of the A major but miss their beauty, and how he can keep to the tempos of the B flat major but miss their transcendental profundity.
Perahia’s immaculate technique, stylistic surety, and classical symmetry are remarkably consistent. While his tone is always singing and rounded, lyrical melodies and decorative passages alike convey a slight diamond-like edge to the peak of crescendos or an emphatic accent. This helps achieve an attractive fusion of unruffled poise and dramatic tension. You hear this quite readily in the B-flat K. 456 concerto ‘s first movement, or in the carefully pedaled trills and restatement of the main theme in K. 595’s heavenly Larghetto, also sampled here. Perahia’s symbiotic musical rapport with Radu Lupu in the two-piano concerto and the two-piano version of the concerto for three pianos should not go unmentioned.– Jed Distler
The concerto performances here have been available in a number of guises over the years, and have rarely been out of the catalogue. In their last incarnation they were coupled with the other items from Perahia’s later, digital solo disc, namely the Variations sérieuses, Op.54 and the famous Rondo Capriccioso, Op.14, as well as the Prelude and Fugue that’s here again. The powers-that-be at Sony must have decided that the Piano Sonata represents better value, and it is certainly a very substantial piece, making a well-filled re-issue.
One of the piano's most lyrical contemporary proponents, Murray Perahia was born in New York City. After first sitting down at the piano at the age of four, he entered Mannes College at 17, later graduating with degrees in conducting and composition. At the same time, Perahia spent his summers in Marlboro, Vermont, collaborating with musicians including Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals and the members of the Budapest Quartet; he also studied with Mieczyslaw Horszowski. Upon winning the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1972, Perahia gave his first concert at the Aldeburgh Festival a year later, where he met and worked with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, subsequently accompanying the latter in many lieder recitals. Perahia became co-artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1981, a position he held for eight years; his recordings include the complete concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.
Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia should have recorded all of Mozart's piano music for four hands, which includes several neglected masterpieces. This disc reflects their ideal partnership, two artists of great sensitivity collaborating in performances that feature constant interplay of parts, alertness to each other's work, and superb playing as individuals. The Concerto for Two Pianos ripples along without a care in the world, just as it should, and the English Chamber Orchestra doesn't seem to care that nobody is conducting it. The pieces without orchestra are a bit less significant (as is the Concerto for Three Pianos), but the playing is so beautiful you won't care.