Pianist Perahia as the Foremost Interpreter of Mendelssohn
Michael A Pahre | Cambridge, MA | 05/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mendelssohn was an accomplished and quick-learning pianist who wrote many of his compositions apparently out of boredom with the repertoire of the day. The concertos on this recording show the joyousness that effuses most of his compositions, which probably went hand-in-hand with his ability to write them quickly and effortlessly. That is not to say that these works lack mastery in their conception or execution, but rather that they exhibit the free flowing of musical ideas that had not been seen in a composer since Mozart.Pianist Murray Perahia is a specialist in the music of the classical and early romantic periods; Mendelssohn as a transitional figure between those periods is perfectly suited to his elegant and coloristic technique. He takes quick and happy tempos throughout, and, as is his trademark, Perahia never seems capable of turning out anything but beautiful phrasing. His tone is subtle but filled with great presence and no forcefulness in the attack. Rather than treat Mendelssohn as a shallow composer of salon pieces, Perahia sees in him the drama and pianistic brilliance more often associated with von Weber. These recordings of the concertos will bring joy to any listener, and most will find little room for improvement.The Variations Serieuses in is one of the greatest works for the piano in that genre, rivalling Bach's Goldberg, Beethoven's Diabelli, Brahms's Paganinni and Handel sets, and Rachmaninoff's on a theme of Pagannini. Mendelssohn's work, however, is under-appreciated even among pianists. Its greatest invention is the complete integration of the entire work, instead of being a loose set of variations that could be re-arranged, cut, or otherwise altered by a performer. The somber key of D minor does not diminish the brilliance of many of the variations, but rather forms an introspective mood for the work. Perahia lets the piece unfold slowly and lyrically, keeping the virtuosity mostly under control until the Coda. You will be breathless by the time he plays the last note. The expansive melodic content of this work, which often carries smoothly from one variation to the next, is carefully and beautifully captured by Perahia. His performance compares favorably with other good, including De Larrocha, Brendel, and Horowitz.The disk is rounded out by several other little vignettes, the Prelude and Fugue and the Rondo capriccioso, both in E minor. As before, Perahia demonstrates in these pieces his ability to shade and spin beautiful phrases."
I love this recording and recommend it to anyone.
Michael A Pahre | 07/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you like exhilarative, romantic piano music, then this is the CD for you. I shall comment on the First Piano Concerto: Murray Perahia, really puts his heart and soul into this recording. The crispness and ease of the arpeggios at the beginning of the first movement really sets the concerto off wonderfully. I have listened to several recordings of this concerto and I feel that this one is by far the best. The passage leading up to Murray's solo section is delightful. He makes the piano sing and his touch and artistic feeling at that moment is something quite special.The last movement is fiery, energetic and full of enthausiasm. This movement really gets the adrenalin pumping for me!If you are a lover of Mendelssohn and/or romantic music, this CD is a must!"
Beautiful and amazing...
Dressi | Gainesville, Ga United States | 03/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Absolutely wonderful! I recomend this for anyone studying the Fist Concerto, Second or the variations! The first concerto is beyond superb and the variations surpass any previous attempts. These recordings rank with Horowitz and Hautzig!"
A Legendary Recording
Daniel R | Seattle, WA | 11/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are so many things that could be said about this recording. It deserves a spot on any top 50 classical recordings list. The piece and the performance are both 5 stars. Mendelssohn is an undeservingly neglected composer. He is ususally thought of as an orchestral composer, since his command of the orchestra is parallel to Mozart's. But in his own time, he was as great a pianist as anyone else. Even many pianists these days neglect or don't know much about his piano works. This is partly because his piano works are less "catchy" than what the romantic piano is often known for, (the piano concerto no. 1 is an exception). They are longer, more traditional, and require more patience, as compared to Chopin's short pieces, Schubert's Impromtus, etc. But they are just as good.
The piano concerto no. 1 in my opinion ties Tchaikovsky's piano concerto no. 1 as the greatest romantic piano concerto. If you've never heard it, it's absolutely mesmorizing. You won't get it out of your head for a week. And it's not performed very often. It captures your attention right away with a sense that something huge is imminent. Then it waists no time in quickly developing into a great, strong, but fairly simple theme. Then it hammers the theme with double octaves, and mixes it in with arpeggios. The whole effect creates a very classic, "nothing else like it" effect, much like Beethoven's 5th. As a piano concerto, Mendelssohn being a master of the orchestra avoids one of the potential pitfalls of focusing on the piano so much that the quality of the orchestral writing is comprimised. Like Mozart's late piano concertos, he manages to pull off a great balance with the orchestra, not a domination. The strings shadow the piano perfectly, with the brass supplying foundation, and the woodwinds adding color and having neat little solos. Few composers can pull off such a feat so perfectly. The piano concerto no. 2 is also very good, with a strong theme that develops after 45 seconds during the first movement, but it is not quite like the first. The three piano pieces at the end are very good, but they are overshadowed by the orchestral greatness of the concertos. As stated before, they require some patience.
Murray Perahia is as good as any other pianist at performing Mendelssohn, and Sir Neville Marriner conducts very well. Perahia always performs very lively and never lets down. The whole thing comes out beautifully. As great as these pieces are, I've heard other recordings of them, and they didn't sound nearly as good. They sounded flat and lacked energy. This is the definitive recording for these truly great concertos.
One last comment, this is one of those rare special pieces of music that captivates people of all musical styles, not just classical listeners. People start to become facinated with it right away, similar to Beethoven's 5th. Very few pieces have that power. Bach's harpsichord concertos and organ music, Haydn's Great masses, Mozart's late piano concertos, Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Chopin's fantasie-impromtu and 2nd piano sonata, and Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto and 1812 overture all are examples. I have a friend who's a school music teacher, who showed this recording to kids who mainly listen to pop, rock, and rap, and many of them liked it. I've also seen many adults who listen to jazz, 80's, or nothing-in-particular like it as well. If you're looking to give a non-classical listener a taste of what they're missing, this Cd would make an excellent choice."
Must have for any classical collection
K. Thompson | GA, USA | 07/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This CD is pretty close to perfect. The concertos are beautiful, and there's really nothing like them. The orchestra never drowns out the piano (due to the fabulous conducting of Marriner), and Perahia can really bring out the beauty of any song and any piano. The solo pieces on this CD are pretty good. Perahia brings out the melody very well on the Prelude and Fugue. And the Variations Serieuses are wonderful to listen to. However, the only reason I didn't give this CD 5 stars is the Rondo Capriccioso. At the opening Andante section, Perahia doesn't really play it fast enough, so the first two minutes of the piece sound like a beautiful dirge. The Rondo section, however, is absolutely perfect. His speed is precise and consistant, and his octaves at the end really add a great "bang" ending to the song, and for that matter, the CD. Not only was Mendelssohn a master, but so were Perahia and Marriner. This is a must have for any classical lover!"