Long a resident of London, Murray Perahia achieved a "he can do no wrong" status with english critics, and tis 2002 set of Chopin Etudes received Record of the Month from the Gramophone, as his previous Chopin record, of the four Ballades, received a Grmophone Award as best keyboard recording of the year. The pianist has spread his Chopin recitals across four decades, and I was enamored of the first one on Sony, which contained Sonatas No 2 and 3. But the boat left me behind on the dock somewhere. Perahia's later Chopin became so much less spontaneous, imaginative, brilliant and enjoyable. A pianist who was never very inward became increasingly like a professor giving a keyboard demonstration - every ingredient is in place except passion and personality.
The British have an appetite for pianists who stay nearly within boundaries (was anyone's blood fired up by Solomon and Dame Myra Hess?), but I am a bit baffled why so many amazon reviewers are enthralled b these Etudes. comparing them for two minutes with Pollini's dazzling account should be enough to demonstrate what's lacking. Yet I realize that musicians hate being compared to past greats. On its own terms, Perahia's account is posed and stylish, to a fault, I would say. His technique is flawless but rarely used to excite us. His pacing and tempo choices are impeccable. I realize that there is a whole class of listeners who believe that no such thing as magic exists, that the score sits there on the counter like flour, waiting to be picked up and used in a recipe. For them, this is a perfect set of Chopin Etudes, but I will keep searching for charisma, personality, originality, and bravura showmanship - all the things you don't find on the recipe page.