Perahia was at the Chan Centre in Vancouver on February 23. Here’s my review.
French Suite 4
Chopin 62/1 (B major Nocturne) 25/1, 25/5, 10/4, Scherzo 2
Schubert Eb Impromptu for Encore
I was sitting in the middle of the second floor section of the hall with a view of the keyboard.
Overall, an excellent performance of a nicely balanced program. In spite of the wet acoustics of the hall, Perahia played with a lot clarity and a beautiful sound.
The French Suite was enjoyable. There were a few clinkers, and, maybe a bit surprisingly, many of the ornaments were blurred or had missing notes in them. (He improved as the suite progressed, so maybe he just hadn’t warmed up enough).
The Beethoven was good. He took a lot of chances technically at the end of the first movement and especially in the finale (which was taken at a very fast tempo). His playing has a lot of control and finesse and kept my attention throughout.
His Papillons was phenomenal and the absolute highlight of the concert. (You were right about Perahia’s Schumann being something special Brew). The piece - from start to finish - was played with a ton of imagination colour. It definitely ranks as one of my most magical concert experiences. One thing that sums up his performance for me are the way he played the ascending octaves in the Waltz and Finale sections of the piece - breathtakingly fast and accurate. This didn’t come across as showy or ostentatious at all - simply as virtuosity to sculpt the perfect phrase. I was indifferent to this piece before tonight (this performance was also far more inspired than his 1970’s recording of the work).
After the interval Perahia played some Chopin.
The low point of the recital for me was the 62/1 nocturne. The performance was not bad by any objective measure. I like Horowitz’s late recording of this work, but maybe I find the piece in general a bit annoying and histrionic (especially that big run in the right hand). Anyways, my mind wandered and I can’t remember much about his interpretation of it. However, his 25/1 was beautiful and he brought out some wonderful voices in the left hand. His interpretation was at a similar level to Arthur Rubinstein’s wonderful performance of the same work in Moscow. Perahia’s 25/5 was also good, with the middle section sounding lyrical yet unsentimental. His 10/4 was played with a lot of chops, though I couldn’t hear much of what was going on in the left hand. I’m almost certain that this wasn’t the performer’s fault - more the combination of the hall and the fact that the hammers were overvoiced.
Perahia finished off with the B flat minor Scherzo. Again, there was beautiful phrasing, the discovery of some good inner voices, and some genuine risk taking. In one of the big descending run, Perahia divided the notes between the hands. (He did this on a few other occasions too. Though such not bothered at all by such facilitations (though his old mentor Serkin might have been). Playing the piano is difficult enough as it is…).
Overall, an excellent concert by one of the world’s great pianists. I’ll remember that Schumann for a long time to come.