Spontaneous standing ovation for Murray Perahia at the Barbican tonight after his truly monumental performance of the fugue from the “Hammerklavier”.
The same frenzy and struggle that made his mentor Rudolf Serkin’s performance so unforgettable.
From the sublime masculinity of the slow movement to the truly improvisatory flourish of the seemingly false start search before embarking on Beethoven’s impossible final movement fugue.
We could literally hear the grunts and groans as Perahia shared Beethoven’s struggle with us.This total identification was even more surprising because unexpected from this true poet of the piano.
In fact the first movement was reminiscent of the poetic performances that Ashkenazy used to give in the 70’s.
For all the wonderful things that that implies for me it misses that frenzied struggle that was such a memorable thing in Serkin’s performance all those years ago in the Festival Hall.
After all ,Beethoven was struggling with total deafness and his impossibly fast metronome marking (that Schnabel attempted to observe )just shows us Beethoven’s frustration not only with his physical limitations but also those of the pianos of the day – a true revolutionary spirit indeed.
Already the second movement played with all the microscopic sensitivity that had Serkin exclaim to Richard Goode, the first time he heard Perahia:”you told me he was good,but you did not tell me how good!”.
Unique, I would say and certainly the second movement could not have been more scrupulously or sensitively played .
It was from this moment that a spark was ignited and felt through the rapt attention of the lucky people present on such a magical occasion.
Even the pause between the end of the slow movement and the opening broken chord of the last – something unusual as it is normally played without a break – sounded so right and also gave the coughers the ever eager time to express themselves between movements.
The concert began with a very simple but pure performance, perfectly in style of Haydn’s Variations in F minor .Not missing in Beethovenian robustness in the climax but seeming to dissolve before our very eyes.Infact exactly as Haydn had indicated in the score .
Mozart A minor Sonata played all perfectly in style with Perahias unique way of shedding light on the most hackneyed of pieces.
Always a robust performance but in the sound world that the music belongs so the climax even in the sublime slow movement took us by surprise.The last movement entered the stage as a whisper that was to be transformed into the central major section only to disappear again before the rousing last chords .
I was completely taken by surprise by the totally different sound world that seduced us in the first of Brahms’ Intermezzi from op 119.
Only one other pianist I know is capable of that magic sound ( that was all Rubinstein’s for those that were lucky enough to have heard him ) .And Rubinstein was indeed mentor of Krystian Zimerman who in the only other pianist today that can create such an atmosphere of sheer ravishing beauty from the very first note .
There are no words to describe the beauty of the four pieces that make op 119 ,in the hands of this poet.
I think the same words of Rospropovich would apply to Perahia here.Words that he used for my old teacher Vlado Perlemuter when he played in his Festival in Evian :” C’est le Roi”
I had heard great reports of this concert from Craig Sheppard in Seattle. Praise indeed coming from another great pianist who was top prize winner with Perahia in the 1972 Leeds Competition .
It is strange how many of the pianists that actually have made their home in London very rarely if ever play in their adopted city, although feted worldwide.