Biography, albums, CD & concert reviews
Added on November 12, 2009
According to an interview published
in the English
Spectator on November 11, 2009 Murray Perahia suffered from a cut on his
thumb for years. In 1990, an innocuous cut on his thumb became infected, swelled
up and forced him to quit the piano. A few years later, a bone spur was
surgically removed from his hand. Because the antibiotics he was given had no
effect, Murray Perahia sat in his arm chair for three years studying Bach. When
he had recovered, he recorded his award winning performance of the Goldberg
Variations. From time to time, he has flare-ups. In 2008, he had to cancel some
of the concerts of his successful tour.
Article added on June 30, 2001
Murray Perahia is an American of Sephardic
(Spanish-Jewish) descent. Today, he lives in London. He was born in New York
City in 1947. His parents taught him to play the piano at the age of 3. In
1952, he began to take lessons for the next twelve years with Jeanette Haien,
the assistant of Abran Chasins. In addition, he took music lessons at the High School of
At 17, Murray Perahia began to study at the New
York Mannes College of Music where he not only improved his piano playing but
also graduated in conducting and composition with Carl
Bamberger. He also took private lessons with the pianists
Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Artur Balsam. In those years, he mostly listened to
recordings by Horowitz,
Clifford Curzon, Schnabel and his teacher Horszowski.
Perahia's later friendship with the
pianist of the 20th century, Vladimir Horowitz, was an inspiration for Perahia,
not only regarding his piano play, but also in respect to his personality.
At the invitation of Rudolf Serkin, Perahia
played four times in a row at the Marlboro Festival for chamber music in Vermont.
There, he performed with Serkin, Pablo Casals, Alexander Schneider and the
Budapest String Quartet.
For one year, Perahia became Serkin's assistant
at the Curtis Institute. In 1968, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall, under
the direction of Alexander
In 1972, as the first American, Murray Perahia
won the Leeds International Piano Competition. His debut in London came as a
consequence as well as his international career which took off at this time. At the end of
1972, he got a record contract with CBS (which is today Sony).
From the beginning of his career, Perahia put
emphasis on chamber music. He regularly performed with the Guarneri Quartet,
the Galimir Quartet and the already mentioned Budapest Quartet. In addition,
he continued giving solo recitals.
From 1981 to
1989, Perahia served as co-artistic director at the Aldeburgh Festival in England
where he had first appeared in 1973 and began a collaboration with composer Benjamin Britten
and singer Peter Pears, whom he accompanied in many lieder recitals. Today, Perahia
is an honorary director of the Britten-Pears music school. He is also an honorary
fellow of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. He
received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leeds.
In the 1990s, Perahia cut his thumb with a
sheet of paper which led to an infection. Due to an anomaly of his bone, he
to undergo surgery. Therefore, he had to interrupt performing for a longer
In his career, Perahia has worked under many
famous directors such as Claudia Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Berhard Haitink, Albert Kubelik,
Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sir Geog Solti
and others. Perahia regularly plays chamber music with Alexander Schneider,
Radu Lupu, Paul Tortelier and Pinchas Zukerman.
At the core of Murray Perahia's work are Mozart, Chopin, Schumann,
Brahms and, in the last years, Bach. Perahia is a master of sensitive
renditions of lyric pieces. Among the highlights of his body of work one finds
his complete recordings of Mozart's Piano Concerts, together with the English
Chamber Orchestra (for these and other records, check the list of CDs on the
Concert at the Tonhalle
Zurich, June 15, 2001
Surprisingly, Murray Perahia's solo recital
organized by the Konzertagentur
Caecilia at the Tonhalle in Zurich on June 15 was not sold out. Perahia began
the evening with Mozart's Fantasy for Piano in c-minor KV 475. It is not
a lightweighed Mozart composition. Perahia played the Adagio
in an intense manner, recalling Beethoven, whereas the rest of the Fantasy
was played in a spiritualized and subdued tone which was closer to Schubert.
Schubert wrote his Sonata in B flat major D960
September 1828, only two months before his premature death. The composition
was published posthumously. Perahia interpreted the Molto Moderato in a
tender way, just interrupted by a dark premonition. Light-hearted harmonies
stood aside sombre ones. Perahia created introspective moments of melancholic
beauty, interrupted by ones of blissful. In the Andante Sostenuto, he
showed the approaching death without becoming tearful. The thoughtful piano
became forceful. Afterwards, Perahia returned to his subdued play. There was
no drama and no profound melancholy.
In Schubert's Scherzo: Allegro vivace con
delicatezza Perahia respected the composers will. The movement had a
cheerful tone, but was neither naive nor superficial. In the contrary, a
deeper dimension could be felt. At the same time, Perahia respected the delicatezza.
In the end, Allegro ma non
troppo reminded the listener of a tender spring, but experienced by a man
at an advanced age. In the very end followed dramatic and bright (high) notes.
In all of Schubert, Perahia respected a certain
balance. The careful buildup of the composition, played piano, allowed
him to make an impressive intensification. At the same time, Perahia's
clever programming of the evening must be mentioned. Without Mozart, played in
a tender and subdued way in the beginning, the effect of the lyrical Schubert
would not have been the same. Schubert remained the highlight of the evening,
thanks to Perahia's rendition of the Sonata in all its complexity.
The second part of the concert was dedicated to
Chopin. Perahia began with the Ballad no. 3 in A flat major op. 47 which
pleased in mood and color, in its poetic-dramatic elegance. The popular parts
were never melodramatic. The five Etudes of op. 25 were played
with temper and virtuosity. However, the general impression was one of too
in b minor Op. 31 convinced in its short, passionate beginning.
Afterwards, poetry and passion stood side by side. Perahia was able to carry
away the public with some images of rousing beauty. But what was his strength
with Mozart and Schubert became a handicap with Chopin: his moderation and
restraint. Several parts could have been rendered with more brilliance and
could have been formulated in a sharper way. Perahia did not play out his
virtuosity. Was all of this a result of his intensive study in recent years of
the works of Bach?
As encores, Perahia offered three pieces by Chopin.
He began with a short Nocturne which could have been the thoughtful
final word of the evening. Two Etudes followed. The first was mainly a
piece of virtuosity, the second a marvelous musical declaration of love. The
public was enchanted.
Murray Perahia at the piano. Sony Photo Copyright: Felix Broede.
Murray Perahia. Sony Photograph Copyright Nana Watanabe.
Added on November 12, 2009:
Murray Perahia: Bach Partitas 1, 5 & 6. Sony, 2009. Order this CD
Amazon.com. Sony Photograph Copyright: Felix Broede.
Added on November 12, 2009: Murray Perahia: Bach Partitas 2, 3.4.
Sony, 2008. Order this CD from
CDs by Murray Perahia
Murray Perahia: Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations. Oktober 2000, Sony. Get it from Amazon.de
Since the release of Bach's English Suites no. 1, 3 and 6 in
April 1998 and no. 2, 4 and 5 in February 1999, for which Perahia was
honored with the Grammy Award 1999 for Best Solo Instrumental Recording
(without Orchestra), he is considered a specialist on Bach. In October 2000,
his Goldberg Variations were released. Both critics and the public are
enthusiastic about this new Bach CD. The Variations are a sort of
compendium or anthology of high-baroque music. As with Mikhail
Pletnev, Perahia's Variations are transparent, but not as
profound and as calculated as with the Russian pianist. They are more
sensitive and lighter, but without the ornamental mannerism of a Glenn Gould.
In the CDs booklet, Perahia shares his substantial thoughts about the piece
with his readers and listeners. He puts a particular emphasis on Bach's
harmony. - Perahia's Goldberg Variations also exist on Super Audio
CD. The sound is far superior to a normal CD; unfortunately, you need a
special player to hear this. For
sheet music by Johann Sebastian Bach click here.
Murray Perahia, Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam: Beethoven
Klavierkonzerte 1-5 (Complete Recordings). 3 CDs, Sony, 1988. Get it from Amazon.de
sheet music by Ludwig van Beethoven click here.
Murray Perahia and the English Chamber Orchestra: Mozart: The Piano
Concertos and Rondos K. 382 & 386. 10 CDs. Sony, May 2001. Get it from
(the English box comes with 12 CDs). These complete recordings of Mozart's Piano Concertos of the years 1976 to 1984 testify of the time in which
Perahia conquered the piano world with his differentiated and bright sound and
simultaneously lyrical and tempestous playing. For these outstanding
recordings, Perahia was justly awarded a Diapson D'Or. For
sheet music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart click here.
Murray Perahia, Amadeus-Quartet: Brahms - Intermezzo. Sony, 2000. Get
it from Amazon.de.
Murray Perahia, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the
direction of Sir Colin Davis: Grieg, Schumann - Piano Concertos. Sony, 2000.
Get it from Amazon.de.
Murray Perahia: Songs Without Words. Mendelssohn, Schubert/Liszt,
Bach/Busoni. Sony, 1999. Get it from Amazon.de
Murray Perahia: Twenty-Fith Anniversary Set. 4 CDs, Sony, 1998. Get it
The Great Pianists of the 20th Century - Murray Perahia. September 1998,
Philips/Universal. Get it from Amazon.com.
Added on September 3, 2002:
Murray Perahia: Beethoven Piano Sonatas 1,2, 3. Sony, 1995. Get the CD
At least for Switzerland and Germany re-released in September 2002; different
cover. Get the CD from Amazon.de.