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Offline springrite

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The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« on: January 05, 2019, 04:53:22 AM »
Having seen several posts recently about Murray Perahia's recordings, I want to share a fairly recent recital experience.

Perahia played Scarlatti, Chopin, Schumann (first half) and the Beethoven Hammerklavier at a recital in Beijing. I know about his hand injuries and his return to the concert platform after so many years away. So I eagerly bought a ticket.

In the first half, he started with three Scarlatti sonatas. The first one he played tennatively and made some mistakes, as he did with the second one. But the third one was sublime. The Chopin (a nocturne and a Polonaise) were just magical! He followed with the Schumann Opus One, which was good initially but the second part was a major struggle.

I realized what had happened. With his hand injuries, it took him a while to get his fingers/muscles warmed up to the task. Once that was done, he was wonderful. But near the end of the first half, fatigue must have set in, and he began to struggle, and struggle rather badly.

Considering what had happened in the first half, I expected him to pace himself in The Hammerklavier. But he did not. He started with a storm! The first movement was thunderous! But after the opening he had some problems again, for a few minutes, before we began to hear the best of Murray Perahia again. When the last movement came, he did not relent, did not slow down, and did not soften things. Mistakes abound but, in the fashion of Schnabel, it is not the perfection of the notes or the evenness of the tempo, it is the musical message that he is conveying. I found myself squeezing my hands as if trying to give him some energy and power. Afraid that he may not be able to finish it, I was pulling for him. (I could tell some people around me began to get impatient with the mistakes and imperfections). But he persisted till the end!

Let me just say that knowing about his experience, this otherwise imperfect recital is one of the most exciting and satisfying recital I have ever attended. If anything, the supposed imperfection was part of the perfection. The music itself plus an artist's personal experience on display at the same time, and I was invited as an audience to be part of it. I felt privileged.

This is music-making.
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2019, 05:09:22 AM »
Interesting that Perahia performed in China. He certainly had a long career with a huge roster of recordings, may have done the fastest ever Mozart concertos on record (at least No. 27 in Bb).

I saw him a few times in masterclasses, appreciated his scholarly approach. He certainly does his homework before playing or teaching a piece: its history, cultural setting and most important, its structure. He brings to the lessons many profound insights from Schenker analysis, which to me are practically indispensible for understanding and deciphering tonal music.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline Todd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2019, 07:41:02 AM »
I've heard Perahia in recital twice.  The first time was in the early aughts when the highlight was a crackerjack Op 31/1, anchored by an Adagio grazioso that was superb, light, and fun.  I heard him more recently when the big draw was the Hammerklavier.  The other works included some Haydn, Brahms, and Mozart.  Those were all well done enough, with some slips, but I was there for the Hammerklavier.  I heard the recital before the disc came out, and I was surprised how fast Perahia took the opening movement.  It came in at closer to ten minutes in the recital I attended.  There was ample energy, but way too many slips, and the playing was jagged.  The same held true for the second movement.  The Adagio was good, quick and tense and under control, but the final movement was again too error laden.  Perahia obviously gave it everything he had as we was sweating profusely and took a couple minutes before he could take a curtain call.  He played no encores.  The recital as a whole was enjoyable, but the Beethoven was really nothing special to me.  This is one reason why I'm not a big fan of Perahia's recording of 106.  It is obviously so doctored that it does not represent what Perahia can do in real life.  Of course, there have been complaints about that for years when it comes to his recordings, but with this work, I cannot suspend disbelief.  Perahia is past his prime.

I know it can seem a bit unfair to be so critical of live performances that contain errors, especially given that imperfect live performances are much more common that perfect ones.  I've heard other pianists past their prime in performance.  Jean-Philippe Collard gave an error-laden and memory-slip filled performance of Bartok's Third PC that nonetheless had not a little musical merit.  Yefim Bronfman struggled with portions of LvB's Fourth Concerto, but the slow movement was phenomenal, and he encored with one of the most beautiful Schumann Arabeskes I've ever heard.  Even a fair number of errors doesn't necessarily detract from a great performance.  Anton Kuerti gave what amounted to a master class on the Diabelli Variations, speaking for around twenty minutes, before taking a break and then delivering a blockbuster performance, though one where some big moments were botched.  Perfect playing, or something approaching it, is rare.  Marc Andre Hamelin, battling a cold, pulled it off.  Joseph Moog did, as well.  (He also played at a perfectly controlled, punishingly loud volume.)  Piotr Anderszewski and Vladimir Feltsman are the only two other pianists in my concert going experience who managed the same feat.  Even the great young Benjamin Grosvenor slipped in the two performances I attended, and one could tell he was dissatisfied with the errors.  That written, his playing was of such a high level overall that it simply didn't matter.  That's why I'm seeing him again in a few months.  Ivan Moravec was interesting in that while he made a few errors, he otherwise sounded exactly the same in person as he does on disc.

On a somewhat related note, I should state that Hilary Hahn was beyond perfect in two concerts I attended; she's in a different league, it seems.  She completely silenced the hall with a Bach encore in one concert.  People are always hacking up lungs in Portland, at every concert I attend at the Schnitz, but one could hear feet shuffle in the back row when she was done.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2019, 09:48:45 AM »
I know it can seem a bit unfair to be so critical of live performances that contain errors, especially given that imperfect live performances are much more common that perfect ones.

I'll take an imperfect live performance over a perfectly recorded (ie engineered, ie fake) one any day and night.

These days I've been reading this:



and I realized that we live in an era which is completely innimical to any personal, intimate and warm communication between performer and audience. If a Vladimir de Pachmann were to appear on concert stage today he'll be booed out before striking the first chords.





Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.  --- Rabindranath Tagore

Offline Todd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2019, 11:25:02 AM »
I'll take an imperfect live performance over a perfectly recorded (ie engineered, ie fake) one any day and night.


I will, too, up to a point.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2019, 11:36:54 AM »

I will, too, up to a point.

Excellent! Which point?
Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.  --- Rabindranath Tagore

Offline Todd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2019, 11:40:35 AM »
Excellent! Which point?


The point where I pay $75-$100 per ticket to hear a pianist who can no longer play the pieces in his or her recital properly, or anything close to it.  As such, I will tend to stick with the under 60 performing artist crowd going forward.  Probably under 50.  Conductors are excepted from this, of course.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2019, 11:46:23 AM »

The point where I pay $75-$100 per ticket to hear a pianist who can no longer play the pieces in his or her recital properly, or anything close to it. 

Yeah, I certainly do see where you're coming from. But ---  Had you been born a century ago, how would you have known whether he played properly or not?
Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.  --- Rabindranath Tagore

Offline Todd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2019, 11:49:26 AM »
Yeah, I certainly do see where you're coming from. But ---  Had you been born a century ago, how would you have known whether he played properly or not?


I'm not sure of the value of that question being posed on the internet.
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Online Brian

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2019, 08:54:18 PM »

On a somewhat related note, I should state that Hilary Hahn was beyond perfect in two concerts I attended; she's in a different league, it seems.  She completely silenced the hall with a Bach encore in one concert.  People are always hacking up lungs in Portland, at every concert I attend at the Schnitz, but one could hear feet shuffle in the back row when she was done.

This was exactly my recent experience seeing Leonidas Kavakos do Shostakovich VC1. I've not much liked his recordings, especially his famous but frigid Sibelius, but seeing him live was awe-inspiring and nobody here in Dallas dared cough, sneeze, or crinkle a candy wrapper. Probably the best violin playing I have seen live, followed by James Ehnes, who sounds in person like an amplification of his CD self.

Ben Grosvenor kept me transfixed in a performance he held literally on a staircase in a lobby, but other artists haven't lived up to their recorded selves. I saw the Barbican acoustic devour Anne-Sophie Mutter like a bag of crisps.

Back on topic, I own the Sony Perahia big box and especially treasure his recordings of Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Mozart. Even if his studio self doesn't reflect what he did live (there is a live Aldeburgh recital of Franck and Liszt, good but not the best in the box), I think I can enjoy the studio sound guilt free.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2019, 10:25:03 PM »
Yeah, I certainly do see where you're coming from. But ---  Had you been born a century ago, how would you have known whether he played properly or not?

Recordings changed forever the role of a performer in society. In the 19th century, Clara Schumann was touring Europe to spread the works of her husband. I do admire Vladimir DePachmann and the the Romantic pianists at the turn of the 20th century, in part thanks to a very good book on the subject, "The Great Pianists" by Harold Schoenberg, read many years ago. Some of DePachmann's recordings when they appear on Youtube are delightful but not necessarily profound.

Alfred Cortot was not prized for his technical accuracy but musical probity. Arthur Rubinstein realized he had to clean up his act when faced with the prospect of his live performances being compared to his recorded ones. Still, there were fewer virtuosos to choose from 100 years ago. Now there is so much competition especially from the younger crowd who don't necessarily have the vast education and cultural grounding to consolidate dfferent styles and periods.

But I do agree that being asked to pay around $75 - $100 a ticket and get something less than reasonable accuracy is not a good trade off.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2019, 10:54:07 PM »
I've heard Perahia in recital twice.  The first time was in the early aughts when the highlight was a crackerjack Op 31/1, anchored by an Adagio grazioso that was superb, light, and fun.  I heard him more recently when the big draw was the Hammerklavier.  The other works included some Haydn, Brahms, and Mozart.  Those were all well done enough, with some slips, but I was there for the Hammerklavier.  I heard the recital before the disc came out, and I was surprised how fast Perahia took the opening movement.  It came in at closer to ten minutes in the recital I attended.  There was ample energy, but way too many slips, and the playing was jagged.  The same held true for the second movement.  The Adagio was good, quick and tense and under control, but the final movement was again too error laden.  Perahia obviously gave it everything he had as we was sweating profusely and took a couple minutes before he could take a curtain call.  He played no encores.  The recital as a whole was enjoyable, but the Beethoven was really nothing special to me.  This is one reason why I'm not a big fan of Perahia's recording of 106.  It is obviously so doctored that it does not represent what Perahia can do in real life.  Of course, there have been complaints about that for years when it comes to his recordings, but with this work, I cannot suspend disbelief.  Perahia is past his prime.

I know it can seem a bit unfair to be so critical of live performances that contain errors, especially given that imperfect live performances are much more common that perfect ones.  I've heard other pianists past their prime in performance.  Jean-Philippe Collard gave an error-laden and memory-slip filled performance of Bartok's Third PC that nonetheless had not a little musical merit.  Yefim Bronfman struggled with portions of LvB's Fourth Concerto, but the slow movement was phenomenal, and he encored with one of the most beautiful Schumann Arabeskes I've ever heard.  Even a fair number of errors doesn't necessarily detract from a great performance.  Anton Kuerti gave what amounted to a master class on the Diabelli Variations, speaking for around twenty minutes, before taking a break and then delivering a blockbuster performance, though one where some big moments were botched.  Perfect playing, or something approaching it, is rare.  Marc Andre Hamelin, battling a cold, pulled it off.  Joseph Moog did, as well.  (He also played at a perfectly controlled, punishingly loud volume.)  Piotr Anderszewski and Vladimir Feltsman are the only two other pianists in my concert going experience who managed the same feat.  Even the great young Benjamin Grosvenor slipped in the two performances I attended, and one could tell he was dissatisfied with the errors.  That written, his playing was of such a high level overall that it simply didn't matter.  That's why I'm seeing him again in a few months.  Ivan Moravec was interesting in that while he made a few errors, he otherwise sounded exactly the same in person as he does on disc.

On a somewhat related note, I should state that Hilary Hahn was beyond perfect in two concerts I attended; she's in a different league, it seems.  She completely silenced the hall with a Bach encore in one concert.  People are always hacking up lungs in Portland, at every concert I attend at the Schnitz, but one could hear feet shuffle in the back row when she was done.

I saw him do op 106 in London a couple of years ago now, maybe a bit more, and technically it was OK as far as I could hear. From what Springright says when he heard the hammerklavier (also recent) it was mostly OK technically too.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 10:59:27 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2019, 11:02:18 PM »
Interesting that Perahia performed in China. He certainly had a long career with a huge roster of recordings, may have done the fastest ever Mozart concertos on record (at least No. 27 in Bb).

I saw him a few times in masterclasses, appreciated his scholarly approach. He certainly does his homework before playing or teaching a piece: its history, cultural setting and most important, its structure. He brings to the lessons many profound insights from Schenker analysis, which to me are practically indispensible for understanding and deciphering tonal music.

I can imagine he does some Schenker type analysis, but I’m surprised that he cares too much about the history and cultural setting. I wonder how that has a bearing on any of his performances.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2019, 11:07:42 PM »
Recordings changed forever the role of a performer in society. In the 19th century, Clara Schumann was touring Europe to spread the works of her husband. I do admire Vladimir DePachmann and the the Romantic pianists at the turn of the 20th century, in part thanks to a very good book on the subject, "The Great Pianists" by Harold Schoenberg, read many years ago. Some of DePachmann's recordings when they appear on Youtube are delightful but not necessarily profound.

Alfred Cortot was not prized for his technical accuracy but musical probity. Arthur Rubinstein realized he had to clean up his act when faced with the prospect of his live performances being compared to his recorded ones. Still, there were fewer virtuosos to choose from 100 years ago. Now there is so much competition especially from the younger crowd who don't necessarily have the vast education and cultural grounding to consolidate dfferent styles and periods.

But I do agree that being asked to pay around $75 - $100 a ticket and get something less than reasonable accuracy is not a good trade off.

Before, during and just after the war Cortot’s technique was OK, towards the end it deteriorated but even some of the 1950s recordings show an imaginative bold musician. Ironically given some of the comments in this thread, I think  it was Perahia who insisted on the withdrawal of Cortot’s late Schumann recordings from the Philips Great Pianists Edition on the grounds that it was too full of finger slips to be released. Maybe someone will confirm or correct me about that. I think that he made a bad decision there.

With Perahia it’s different from Cortot I think. He’s not a bold and imaginative musician is he? So when it goes really wrong like in Toddy’s Hammerklavier it’s a bit of a bummer.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 12:29:41 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2019, 11:11:57 PM »
Having seen several posts recently about Murray Perahia's recordings, I want to share a fairly recent recital experience.

Perahia played Scarlatti, Chopin, Schumann (first half) and the Beethoven Hammerklavier at a recital in Beijing. I know about his hand injuries and his return to the concert platform after so many years away. So I eagerly bought a ticket.

In the first half, he started with three Scarlatti sonatas. The first one he played tennatively and made some mistakes, as he did with the second one. But the third one was sublime. The Chopin (a nocturne and a Polonaise) were just magical! He followed with the Schumann Opus One, which was good initially but the second part was a major struggle.

I realized what had happened. With his hand injuries, it took him a while to get his fingers/muscles warmed up to the task. Once that was done, he was wonderful. But near the end of the first half, fatigue must have set in, and he began to struggle, and struggle rather badly.

Considering what had happened in the first half, I expected him to pace himself in The Hammerklavier. But he did not. He started with a storm! The first movement was thunderous! But after the opening he had some problems again, for a few minutes, before we began to hear the best of Murray Perahia again. When the last movement came, he did not relent, did not slow down, and did not soften things. Mistakes abound but, in the fashion of Schnabel, it is not the perfection of the notes or the evenness of the tempo, it is the musical message that he is conveying. I found myself squeezing my hands as if trying to give him some energy and power. Afraid that he may not be able to finish it, I was pulling for him. (I could tell some people around me began to get impatient with the mistakes and imperfections). But he persisted till the end!

Let me just say that knowing about his experience, this otherwise imperfect recital is one of the most exciting and satisfying recital I have ever attended. If anything, the supposed imperfection was part of the perfection. The music itself plus an artist's personal experience on display at the same time, and I was invited as an audience to be part of it. I felt privileged.

This is music-making.

I know two recordings which show, IMO, a really fine musician in Perahia. One is the Davidsbundlertanze, and the other is the Chopin preludes, both very early. And I have a liking for some of the Mozart concertos, I remember 27 and 14 were particular favourites, there may be others. Most of the other recorings I’ve heard are fine, but they don’t have the same fire, and aren’t specially imaginative, though they may have other qualities -- poise, elegance, gentleness, refinement, beauty, delicacy . . .
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 01:15:34 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2019, 06:42:02 AM »

I'm not sure of the value of that question being posed on the internet.

What I want to say --- perhaps clumsily --- is that recordings have changed forever our way of experiencing music. Nowadays we tend to concentrate much more on technical prowess and sound engineering at the expense of the sheer enjoyment of the music --- and the performing act, let's not forget this --- itself. It's oh so easy to spot the faults of X or Y when one has 50 + recordings to compare; nay, it's become a favorite pastime (not that's anything wrong with that, mind you!). But I'd say that the excitement, the thrill, the unforgettable experience of hearing live, for the first and quite possibly the last time in one's life, the greatest contemporary pianists, Chopin, Liszt, Rubinstein, Pachmann or whoever, is forever gone. Even this money thing, which I can well understand: spending $75 on a technically unsatisfying performance is understandable --- but are you sure that if you had spent the same amount of money for a Chopin or Liszt or Pachmann or [insert your favorite pre-recording pianist] recital you'd have liked their technical playing and thought of the money as well spent?  Anton Rubinstein is famously said to have declared after a concert that with all the notes he dropped he could have played another recital; yet people were moved to tears by his playing. What did they know back then that we ignore today? Conversely, what have we gained that they lost?
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Offline staxomega

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2019, 12:57:31 PM »

and I realized that we live in an era which is completely innimical to any personal, intimate and warm communication between performer and audience. If a Vladimir de Pachmann were to appear on concert stage today he'll be booed out before striking the first chords.

With the piano recitals/concerts I have attended people seem to be more than happy to give a jubilant, even thunderous on occasion applauses for even fairly average to under whelming performances. In my experience it seems like sometimes people are more happy to be in the presence of great names than being over critical.

Offline Florestan

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2019, 12:59:32 PM »
With the piano recitals/concerts I have attended people seem to be more than happy to give a jubilant, even thunderous on occasion applauses for even fairly average to under whelming performances. In my experience it seems like sometimes people are more happy to be in the presence of great names than being over critical.

Well, good for you! I do envy your experience!
Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.  --- Rabindranath Tagore

Online Brian

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2019, 01:02:51 PM »
With the piano recitals/concerts I have attended people seem to be more than happy to give a jubilant, even thunderous on occasion applauses for even fairly average to under whelming performances. In my experience it seems like sometimes people are more happy to be in the presence of great names than being over critical.
Well, good for you! I do envy your experience!

It's very region-dependent in my experience. Here in the US, people will give standing ovations for just about anything. I've seen people in Dallas stand up after the overture. But when I lived in London, I don't once remember the audience standing - not for anyone.

Offline amw

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Re: The Murray Perahia Appreciation Thread
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2019, 07:47:56 PM »
Standing ovations in America are almost a matter of courtesy & can't really be taken as indicators of performance quality or even audience response. Also I've never heard perfect playing from any pianist (or violinist, etc) in concert although I have heard a few who are better in person than on record—Mitsuko Uchida is one.

Concerts are not necessarily a worthwhile investment for going to hear music (unless it's music that hasn't been recorded, or the performer is of a particularly high caliber) but certainly have other values I guess.