There's a bit of gray in Murray Perahia's hair now, and a serious thumb injury a few years ago kept him away from the keyboard. But neither maturity nor a forced period of contemplation can account for this pianist's deepening tone and the newfound freedom in his interpretations.
A recital Wednesday evening at Johns Hopkins' Shriver Hall -- his warm-up for tomorrow's Carnegie Hall concert -- reintroduced Perahia, now as before the finest American pianist on the scene.
A weightier tone was immediately apparent in Handel's Suite No. 5 in E and the G Major Chaconne. His conception of these pieces was a revelation. Clean, lucid balances and a romantic relaxation from the printed notes emphasized singing qualities. Although Perahia recently recorded several Handel suites, they are not in many pianists' repertoire. Perahia has made them his own.
In Schumann's Kreisleriana he took many risks, moving inner voices forward with often startling results. His pedaling, sparse even a decade ago, is now more complex, more coloristic. Still, there was little of the heroic, grand sweep waiting to be tapped in this work. It was at the chaste end of the excitement spectrum.
There was Schubert on the program's second half, beginning with the Sonata in A, Op. 120. Flexible and fluid tempos always sounded right. He effectively heightened contrasts for Chopin's B minor Scherzo, but in two Etudes (Op. 10, Nos. 10 and 12), amid the thrilling runs, one sensed physical strain as he came up empty in the final measures.
Pub Date: 4/04/97