Murray Perahia plays the Hammerklavier

Since 2012, which was only my sophomore year in high school (time flies!!), I’ve been able to hear Murray Perahia play live in Chicago three times, with this Sunday afternoon’s performance being the third. However, no matter how many times I’ve heard him live or have listened to his numerous (and brilliant) recordings, I still walk away incredibly awed by his elegant artistry after each performance I hear. As usual, today was no exception. The program consisted of pieces all by composers that Murray has been long and well associated with: Bach’s French Suite No. 6, Schubert’s 4 Impromptus (Op. 142, D 935), and Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata.

Murray recently made the switch over to Deutsche Grammophon, marking the switch with a new album of Bach’s 6 French Suites. He is a renowned interpreter of Bach (in addition to his new French Suites recording, I also have his recording of the English Suites and the Partitas!), having dedicated a lot of time to studying Bach’s music throughout his career, especially during the 90s. Although Bach may not be my favorite composer, I seem to find that Murray’s crisp and intelligent interpretations always reveal the genius of this composer, especially with his profound reading of the Sarabande of the Suite.

I remember reading or watching some interview with Maestro Muti (I’ll update with the link if I can find it), and he was talking about some of the greatest Schubert interpreters and made a point to mention Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia. I, for one, 100% agree. In fact, it was Murray’s performance of the Schubert Impromptu No. 4 (D 899) in 2012, and his recording, that got me to start playing the Schubert Impromptus on the piano, so I’ve always looked forward to anytime he plays Schubert. Today, he played the four Schubert Impromptus (D 935), and like his colleague Radu Lupu (who I met two weeks ago!!), Murray’s legendary sense of color and eloquent artistry was on full display, especially for the third impromptu. I feel like that piece might be the next one on my list of works to learn how to play on the piano haha.

Finally, after intermission, came Beethoven’s massive and incredibly difficult Hammerklavier sonata, which Murray has been playing on tour since last year. I only have one recording of the piece on my iTunes (a Salzburg Festival performance featuring Sokolov!), but I haven’t listened to it too often. And having heard Murray’s Moonlight Sonata in 2012, I was definitely looking forward to hearing Murray’s take on the Hammerklavier. Murray is known for his sublime purity and poetic sensitivity of tone, which was clearly evident in the 3rd movement, but he also brought the full power and driving momentum of this massive piece to the forefront of the marathon-like 4th movement. Seriously, it was a marvel to witness, and I’m super glad (and grateful) that the first performance that I’ve ever heard of this piece played live was played by my favorite pianist. I really do hope I get more chances to hear Murray perform, as he is is one of the greatest pianists today!


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