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Originally published October 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 23, 2007 at 4:55 PM

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Concert review

Murray Perahia | Recital showed the hands' facility and the heart's passion

The piano is officially classified as a percussion instrument. But a great pianist can make you forget that classification in a hurry, as...

Seattle Times music critic

The piano is officially classified as a percussion instrument. But a great pianist can make you forget that classification in a hurry, as the lyrical Murray Perahia did on Tuesday evening before a crowd of impassioned fans at Benaroya Hall.

A Perahia recital is an event eagerly anticipated, all the more so because the pianist's occasionally recurring thumb injury has led to some past cancellations. So you don't take him for granted. And he certainly doesn't take the music for granted: You've never heard a pianist who considers each note with such deep care. No phrase is left unconsidered; every line of the score has been probed to make it as musical as possible. Brilliantly original ideas pop up with such regularity that the listener's attention is constantly arrested by one inspiration after another.

Besides his considerable musical intelligence, Perahia's greatest asset is his touch: the incredible variety of sounds he pulls from the keyboard, articulated in the silkiest, smoothest possible legato. Thus the opening Bach Partita No. 4 in D Minor, in which each of the seven movements was fully characterized — from the gamboling spirit of the Courante to the ethereal, otherworldly Allemande. The clarity of his playing was remarkable.

Perahia has long been noted for his Beethoven, and his reading of the "Pastoral" Piano Sonata (No. 15) was especially imaginative in the second (Andante) movement. A succession of Brahms works (Six Piano Pieces of Op. 118) was one eloquent little marvel after another, with inner melodies and chords highlighted to telling effect.

A Chopin set (including the first and fourth of the Etudes, and a Ballade No. 3 of hot-blooded romanticism) brought down the house, which had already provided several cheering, whistling ovations. Perahia, the most unassuming of pianists, could be in no doubt that he was thoroughly appreciated.

The encores were a spectacularly fluent performance of Schubert's Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat Major, and Schumann's "Traumeswirren" (the seventh of the Op. 12 "Fantasiestücke").

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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