In the 35-year-old catalogue of Murray Perahia’s piano recordings, two Hall of Fame, six-star–caliber discs stand out: a 1985 collaboration with Radu Lupu in Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos, K.448; and his 2002 traversal of the Chopin études, a landmark disc that provides Maurizio Pollini’s primo set good company. In the former, the goods rest in Perahia’s precision and feathery touch; in the latter, his startlingly refined technique supports a brilliantly glowing tone.
Perahia nicely brings these assets together in this Sony Classical release of Bach’s Partitas 2–4. He interprets through a modern piano, which isn’t the Baroque sacrilege it would have been, say, a century ago. Given his modest pedaling, clarity isn’t absolute, but he’s not melting notes together, either. And the fantastic Capriccio in the Second Partita should be put on repeat: In the left hand, he rollicks back and forth between big intervals of tenths, turning a walking bass into a sort of basement groove. It’s hard to fathom that a freak hand injury once threatened this prodigious playing.
In the mopey Sarabande in Partita No. 3, Perahia flutters out ornamentation that would make even Bach purist and harpsichordist Wanda Landowska proud. Listen also for those punchy Clydesdale-like leaps during the Courante in Partita No. 4 in D Major.
In recent interviews, Perahia’s been gushing about his “obsession” with Bach’s music the way an alcoholic touts his bottle. We say, drink up.