CHOPIN Ballades, etc – Perahia
This Chopin recital represents Murray Perahia's return to the Sony studios after a two-year absence due to serious injury. So may I start by saying that this is surely the greatest, certainly the richest, of all his many and exemplary recordings. Once again his performances are graced with rare and classic attributes and now, to supreme clarity, tonal elegance and musical perspective, he adds an even stronger poetic profile, a surer sense of the inflammatory rhetoric underpinning Chopin's surface equilibrium. In other words the vividness and immediacy are as remarkable as the finesse. And here, arguably, is the oblique but telling influence of Horowitz who Perahia befriended during the last months of the old wizard's life. Listen to the First Ballade's second subject and you will hear rubato like the most subtle pulsing or musical breathing. Try the opening of the Third and you will note an ideal poise and lucidity, something rarely achieved in these outwardly insouciant pages.
Then there is the glorious Fourth and final Ballade in a performance as subtly gauged as any on record. Here Perahia achieves a fluidity of line and impetus that never compromise or sacrifice his sense of superfine and exploratory detail; and what other pianist possesses such an acute aural and rhythmic sensitivity? From Perahia the waltzes are marvels of liquid brilliance and urbanity. You would have to return to 1950 and Lipatti (EMI, 7/89) for a comparable quality though, frankly, even he hardly achieved such an enchanting lilt or buoyancy, such a beguiling sense of light and shade. In the mazurkas, too, Perahia's tiptoe delicacy and tonal irridescence (particularly in Op. 7 No. 3 in F minor) make the music dance and spin as if caught in some magical hallucinatory haze.
Finally, two contrasting Etudes, and whether in ardent lyricism (Op. 10 No. 3) or shot-from-guns virtuosity (Op. 10 No. 4) Perahia's playing is sheer perfection. The recording beautifully captures his instantly recognizable, glistening sound world as well as the immense grandeur of his conceptions. Rarely in my experience has such a truly transcendental pianism (he has every tint and colour of the spectrum at his fingertips) and such innate poetry been so unforgettably combined. Welcome back Murray Perahia; you have been sorely missed.'