Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doing the Impossible

Murray Perahia demonstrates on his new CD that it's possible to make Beethoven boring. I swear I fell asleep halfway through the first movement of Op. 26, the first sonata on the set. I sampled a few other tracks, including most of the "Pastoral," Op. 28, but no go.

I felt this way about his Mozart piano concerto series back in the 1980s, too. I really don't understand how he does it. I admire the tone and touch on the Beethoven CD, and I can hear that he's trying for some interesting phrasing, but....zzzzzzzzzzz. He just can't hold my attention. How does he do it?

I need a good stiff dose of Kovacevich now. Or St. Artur, or Eric Heidieck, or Yves Nat or Bruno Gelber or Annie Fischer or....you get the point.


calimac said...

I've always liked Perahia's Schumann. His Mozart I could take or leave.

The performer whom everybody else loves whom I find mindbogglingly boring is Yo-Yo Ma. I knew nothing about him when I first heard him some 20+ years ago, a recording of some unaccompanied Bach, and my thought was, "My god, this guy is so stultifying he could kill off the emerging classical revival all by himself." And as it has since subsided like a soggy souffle, maybe he did.

Lisa Hirsch said...


rootlesscosmo said...

I think "trying for" expresses why I find Perahia's playing unsatisfying. A few years ago by sheer coincidence I saw him on TV playing Beethoven first concerto and Alicia deLarrocha on TV the next night doing the same piece. (She was with MTT and London Phil; don't recall who he was with.) It reminded me of how jazz players used to distinguish Coleman Hawkins from Lester Young: Hawkins had a big, rough sound, plenty of vibrato and tonal color; Lester, according to received opinion, had "the sound that comes with the horn," unaffected, un-fussy, serving the musical ideas but not overpowering them. DeLarrocha had the sound that came with the concerto; Perahia was trying too much and not getting out of the music's way.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It is something else for me - yes, there's trying and not...quite...getting there - but for me that does not account for the dullness. I will try to do some kind of side-by-side with a few pianists I do like. Maybe I can figure it out.

Drew80 said...

I don't "get" Perahia, either, and I always thought the problem must be me. I have not heard his new Beethoven disc, but his earlier Beethoven sonatas on Sony were, I though, awfully uninteresting.

Solti was the conductor for that televised Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1.

Philip said...

On Perahia playing Beethoven, I agree entirely, his recordings of the sonatas quite bemusing me. In other repertoire, however, Chopin and Schumann, Bach and Handel, he can conjure very fine things indeed.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hi, Drew, and welcome; I think that was your first comment here. I liked Perahia's Goldberg Vars, which are straightforward and well done, so I agree with Philip on that point. I have not heard his Chopin or Schumann.

Drew80 said...

Thank you.

I believe I commented once before, many months ago.

You had written about a rarely-performed Brahms choral work.

By an odd coincidence, I had actually heard a performance--that very day.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Op. 17! I remember that.