Widgets Magazine

World-class pianist Murray Perahia charms Bing

The Bing staff really broke out the big guns when they managed to book American pianist Murray Perahia for a performance last Thursday night. Perahia is hailed as one of the most sought-after pianists of our time: He has won three Grammy Awards, seven Gramophone Awards, holds an honorary doctorate from five universities including Juilliard and Duke, and was awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his outstanding service to music. Certainly, the somewhat elderly community was well-aware of Perahia’s accomplishments and turned out en masse to enjoy, packing Bing for a sold-out concert.

But back to his performance — Perahia presented a lovely contemporary-free program, starting with classical composer Joseph Haydn’s “Variations in F minor, Hob XVII:6.” Throughout the stately performance, Perahia showcased his artistic mastery, with nuances in stretching and speeding up the tempo, as well as impressive voicing of the melody. Even against complicated harmonic accompaniment or perfectly sustained trills, the melody always shone through. Perahia also captured the essence of Haydn: clean, deliberate, but never dry or without energy.

In contrast to Haydn’s “Variations,” Johannes Brahms’ “Late Piano Music” allowed Perahia to showcase different styles and moods of playing, as well as his own flexibility in transitioning fluidly from one to another. He needed only a slight moment between the grand stateliness of the “Intermezzo in A major” and the high-intensity and quick tempo of the “Capriccio in D minor.” It as during the Capriccio that Perahia truly demonstrated his technical skill. Prior pieces had allowed the audience to experience the depth and finesse of his expressiveness, but the fast and flashy nature of the Capriccio brought out yet another side of this master musician: in-sync chords despite his high hand gestures, and clean staccato even at a very lively tempo.

Perahia concluded his night with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major,” dazzling the audience once more with his technical brilliance and expressive mastery. His use of strategic delays and silences really brought the first movement, “Allegro,” to life, allowing the audience to catch its breath before Perahia dived into yet another exciting passage.

Not only did Perahia perform musically, but he also delivered visually. From his graceful and deliberate hand gestures to his playful head shakes during the second movement of the Beethoven sonata, Perahia was a pleasure to watch — a combination of subtlety and flair, rather than the over-the-top flamboyance of other pianists. During the third movement of the Beethoven sonata, Perahia even briefly conducted his left hand with his right hand. Eyes closed, head bobbing — he was clearly feeling the music on a deeper level.

Perahia is one of the biggest names to perform at Bing this year, and after watching him in concert, I can see why. Few artists can compare to his poise, visuals and artistic ability at the keys.


Contact Serena Wong at serenaw ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Serena Wong

Serena Wong is a music editor at the Stanford Daily. She is a sophomore from Los Angeles, Calif, majoring in CS. To contact her, please email serenaw 'at' stanford.edu.