Tuesday, November 5, 2013



On his first visit to Australia, Murray Perahia gave this recital at the Sydney Opera House last Friday:

French Suite No 4 in E flat

Sonata No 23 in F minor, Appassionata

Carnival Jest from Vienna

Inpromptu No 2
Scherzo No 2

The critics have their say here (Herald) and here (Australian). One headlines with "Quiet storm". The other with "Flamboyant virtuosity". Neither work for me, and certainly not flamboyant. Virtuosity is the right word, and the only other one I can come up with is stunning. Stunned into silence was the packed hall by an absolutely riveting performance by a master musician. We sat close, by choice, third row stalls, with a perfect view of face, hands, keyboard.

The thing is, Mr Perahria is a rare artist. He leaves his ego at the stage door, if not having left it completely. And by that I mean a holy man type of ego leaving. There was a strange other-worldy feeling about his presence, as if he were hardly there, which he obviously was, and it wasn't that he didn't want to be, he obviously did, but he didn't want to be there for his own sake.

He seemed almost in a reverie, going through the recital motions - entrance, perfunctory bows and audience acknowledgment, and seating himself. No scores. Vast concert platform, piano, two handsome stands of flowers. Then something happened. He played, but he wasn't there. This was all about serving the music, and to such an extent that it seemed at times as if the piano was playing him, that the whole thing was happening in reverse, and the composers were inside the piano.

It was an extraordinary revelation of the power of being at one with the music. The Appassionata was almost scary. I mean, scary in that Beethoven was in the room. I struggle to recall such an experience of apparently selfless transmission of such power and intensity, of truth even.

Reading about him has lead me to this, in an interview with Haaretz:

"Music represents an ideal world where all dissonances resolve, where all modulations - they are journeys - return home, and where surprise and stability coexist."


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review, which also beautifully expressed our experience of his recital in Melbourne on Monday night.

His live performance exceeded all hopes and expectations based on a love of his recordings for over 30 years –exciting, brilliant, deep and extraordinarily rich. To be in the presence of such greatness (artist, music, composer as one) was a profoundly moving and humbling experience.

And the sound in the Melbourne Recital Hall was truly amazing.


wanderer said...

Thank you for visiting Tassie and sharing the Melbourne experience.

Susan Scheid said...

I like your words best. I've never heard him play live. There is so much I miss!