Saturday night's concert in Libby Gardner Concert Hall was also attended by an unusually large number of children. Most of them spent two hours with their eyes glued to the man seated at the Steinway. One day they will probably speak with the same respectful tones about the time they heard Murray Perahia.
Perahia is a pianistic poet. He intuitively creates phrases with just the right amount of intensity, momentum and nuance. His awesome technical skill seems to defy the laws of nature giving his expressiveness free rein.
The New York City native began playing the piano at age 4, won the Leeds Piano Competition in 1972, and developed a close acquaintance with Vladimir Horowitz Ð an association which he acknowledges influenced his distinctive artistry.
In 1990, he suffered an injury to his right hand and was side-lined for a few years. A reoccurrence of the problem last year led to another brief absence from the concert stage. But his Salt Lake City performance showed no lingering signs of the problem.
A composer and conductor of renown, Perahia has toured throughout the world as Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Orchestra.
His career as a pianist has primarily focused on interpreting the works of the masters, leaving others to champion works by avant-garde composers.
True to form, Saturday's Virtuoso Series performance featured works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin. This familiar territory seemed fresh under Perahia's hand as he illuminated various elements of the score with subtle inflection and exceptional fluency.
During Bach's Partita No. 4, his crisp articulation, perfectly balanced contrapuntal voices, and buoyant energy showed why this musician is considered one of the foremost Bach interpreters. His communicative style leaves no doubt of the works' message or the composer's intent.
Beethoven's Sonata No. 15 "Pastoral" and Brahms 6 Piano Pieces were equally lucid and instructive.
As he began a set of Chopin works, he seemed to not only convey the composer's musical wishes but also his physical image and shy personality. When accepting the audience's enthusiastic ovations, Perahia nodded modestly looking like he had no idea what all the fuss was about.
But he generously responded with two brilliant encores, Schubert's Impromptu opus 90 No. 2 and Schumann's "Traumes Wirren" (Restless Dreams) from his "Fantasy Pieces," opus 12.
The Virtuoso Series with Murray Perahia
* WHERE: Libby Gardner Hall, University of Utah campus
* WHEN: Saturday
* TICKETS: The next concert in the series is Nov. 28 with Anonymous 4. Tickets are $25, $10 students at 801-581-7100.
* BOTTOM LINE: Murray Perahia's profoundly satisfying Salt Lake performance gave insight to his status as one of our generation's great pianists.