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Pianist Perahia as the Foremost Interpreter of Mendelssohn,
This review is from: Piano Concerti 1 & 2 (Audio CD)
Mendelssohn was an accomplished and quick-learning pianist who wrote many of his compositions apparently out of boredom with the repertoire of the day. The concertos on this recording show the joyousness that effuses most of his compositions, which probably went hand-in-hand with his ability to write them quickly and effortlessly. That is not to say that these works lack mastery in their conception or execution, but rather that they exhibit the free flowing of musical ideas that had not been seen in a composer since Mozart.
Pianist Murray Perahia is a specialist in the music of the classical and early romantic periods; Mendelssohn as a transitional figure between those periods is perfectly suited to his elegant and coloristic technique. He takes quick and happy tempos throughout, and, as is his trademark, Perahia never seems capable of turning out anything but beautiful phrasing. His tone is subtle but filled with great presence and no forcefulness in the attack. Rather than treat Mendelssohn as a shallow composer of salon pieces, Perahia sees in him the drama and pianistic brilliance more often associated with von Weber. These recordings of the concertos will bring joy to any listener, and most will find little room for improvement.
The Variations Serieuses in is one of the greatest works for the piano in that genre, rivalling Bach's Goldberg, Beethoven's Diabelli, Brahms's Paganinni and Handel sets, and Rachmaninoff's on a theme of Pagannini. Mendelssohn's work, however, is under-appreciated even among pianists. Its greatest invention is the complete integration of the entire work, instead of being a loose set of variations that could be re-arranged, cut, or otherwise altered by a performer. The somber key of D minor does not diminish the brilliance of many of the variations, but rather forms an introspective mood for the work. Perahia lets the piece unfold slowly and lyrically, keeping the virtuosity mostly under control until the Coda. You will be breathless by the time he plays the last note. The expansive melodic content of this work, which often carries smoothly from one variation to the next, is carefully and beautifully captured by Perahia. His performance compares favorably with other good, including De Larrocha, Brendel, and Horowitz.
The disk is rounded out by several other little vignettes, the Prelude and Fugue and the Rondo capriccioso, both in E minor. As before, Perahia demonstrates in these pieces his ability to shade and spin beautiful phrases.