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Posted October 1, 2010
I've been listening to Glenn Gould's version of the Variations for many years now. And I hope I'll be listening to it for many more. But Parahia's rendition is simply magical. To me, his version is more gentle than Gould's, more loving, more musical. Nevertheless, when the score calls for thunder and fortissimo, Perahia's got it in spades. The recording is a delight.
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The United States has been fortunate to have its very own pianist to record a majority of the "established" piano concerti and sonatas. Murray Perahia has to be among the few living pianists today who demotes self-indulgence (i.e. Glenn Gould) and intead accumalates scores of awards, including Grammys, Gramophone Best of the Year awards and Penguin Guide Rosettes. He is a pianist who has definitely found his true calling.
But on to the Goldberg's. This listener has long cherished Roslyn Tureck's recording on VAI. But over the years, I have found it somewhat pedantic and rigid. I greatly esteem the Dinnerstein recording on Telarc as a treasured disc, but have some difficuly choosing just one to recommend.
If this listener were to recommend an introduction to the Goldberg Variations, without any prejudgments or prior knowledge of this work, then Perahia would be the one to start off with. He has the "Midas touch". Everything he plays turns to gold: note his Mozart piano sonatas, Schubert's Impromptus, Chopin's Ballades, and Mendelssohn's piano concertos, just to name a few of his exemplary recordings.
Perahia plays the GV's seamlessly, almost effortlessly with grace and aristocratic poise. And yet at the same time there is a joyous spiritual quality to it all. With interpetive insights such as this and such colorful phrasing, I wonder why Perahia is not regarded as the U.S.'s leading pianist today. Go figure....