Murray Perahia reveals the emotional side of these showpieces and demonstrates that...
Andrew McGregor 2002
There's all sorts of Chopin; he somehow seems to offer so many possibilities in his pieces for pianists to introduce their own personality that few can resist. Occasionally when you hear a performance of Chopin you know it's gone too far - the author's voice is lost behind the interpreter's: the ego has landed. But this side of the extremists there's every other degree of imposition, from the characterful insights of Artur Rubinstein or Nelson Freire, through the impetuosity of an Argerich or Pogorelich to the steely virtuosity of Kissin or Pollini, and the self-effacing thoughtfulness of Dinu Lipatti or Murray Perahia.
When it comes to Chopin's Études the field thins out a little. It's the only Chopin Rubinstein wouldn't record, although many wish he'd conquered his fear of embracing their technical challenges in front of an audience. Pollini's awesome account is still amongst the most impressive on record; fearless, imperious, a master absolutely in command of his instrument...yet it's Murray Perahia in this new recording who reveals the emotional side of these showpieces, who demonstrates to any doubters that there's music as beautiful as many other Chopin miniatures lurking in the rapids and the turbulent torrents, and that perhaps the biggest virtuosic challenge is to be able to reveal the music while making the technical difficulties melt away.
Perhaps Perahia is too focussed on the detail for some, who'd prefer more epic sweep and incandescent egotism...but don't be fooled by the relative inwardness of these readings. Perahia's never found wanting technically, and there are some jaw-dropping displays of speed and power. Its just that they're used sparingly, and in the meantime you learn more about the music than in most other recordings - this goes way deeper than shallow pyrotechnics.
It's a really fine recording as well, illuminating Perahia's performance just as he shines a light inside the Chopin Studies, seeing past the complexity to the soul beneath the surface.