Stories » A more spontaneous and uninhibited Murray Perahia at Strathmore concert / Washington Post

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A more spontaneous and uninhibited Murray Perahia at Strathmore concert / Washington Post

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In the recording studio, Murray Perahia embodies the archetype of the modern American pianist. With an unassailable technique and a commanding sense of structure, he offers uncontroversial, authoritative performances elevated by his tonal mastery and poetic sensitivity. His recordings command respect but rarely surprise. But recent live performances have found Perahia in much more spontaneous and uninhibited form. His Sunday afternoon recital at Strathmore, presented by Washington Performing Arts, was no exception, revealing a more impulsive, showy and daring side to his artistry.

Perahia's reading of Brahms's G minor Ballade, Op. 118, No. 3, which led off a richly sonorous set of late Brahms pieces, was a case in point. Compared with his straitjacketed studio recording, his concert performance was more freely expressive, with greater liberties of tempo and more pronounced thematic contrasts. The reprise of the opening melody felt impetuous, as if Perahia were pursuing a heady rush of nostalgic feeling - making the concluding echo of the lyrical middle theme, now in a minor key, sound even more haunted and ghostly.

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