He’s one of today’s great pianists – but he stopped taking piano lessons when he was 18. Instead, he studied theory, counterpoint and analysis because, as he put it, “I am more interested in the ideas behind the music than in one instrument.” Murray Perahia: a Great Chopinist who almost wasn’t.
He was born in the Bronx, but young Murray Perahia spent his summers in Marlboro, Vermont, learning at the hand of pianist Rudolf Serkin and cellist Pablo Casals. And his idol: Polish-American pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, whose artistic lineage could be traced all the way back to Chopin himself. Even though he majored in conducting, and NOT piano, Perahia had learned enough to become the first American to win the Leeds International Piano Competition.
At first, Perahia resisted playing Chopin in concerts and recitals. He once said, “One instinctively doesn’t want to be thought of as a miniaturist. I considered it pejorative. Now I don’t.” Perahia overcame his Chopin aversion with a vengeance, even going so far as to win the Grand Prix du Disque de Chopin not once, but twice. And his 2003 recording of Chopin’s Études earned him a Grammy.
What sets Perahia’s playing apart? Maybe it has something to do with Perahia’s other great affinity..with the music of J.S. Bach. In his book Chopin Playing, author James Metheun-Campbell calls Perahia a “near-perfect Chopin player…His grasp of the vital place of counterpoint in Chopin’s style also helps to give his playing a depth of understanding that many others lack.”
Murray Perahia…A great, belated, Chopinist. - Frank Dominguez