A parade of world-class pianists continued to pass through town this fall. Last week, it was Lang Lang at the Granada, and this week, Murray Perahia brought his particular style of virtuosity to UCSB’s Campbell Hall, where he performed works both well and little known by a who’s-who of canonical composers for the instrument. Perahia, who is revered for his scholarly approach, exquisite taste, and general sense of restraint at the keyboard, offered a great contrast to the more showy and theatrical leanings of Lang Lang.
He emerged on Thursday dressed in the traditional concert attire of a tailcoat — a choice that, while probably not that orchestrated, nevertheless provided a useful shorthand symbol for his approach, which has all the virtues and some of the liabilities of a formal occasion. For Haydn’s Sonata in D Major, Hob. XVI:24, the tailcoat fit perfectly, and the profound sonorities of the composition gained in luster from the musician’s restraint. Likewise, the works by Schubert (Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780, Op. 94) and Beethoven (Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, “Moonlight”) also only benefited from the master’s rigorous touch. In the second half of the concert, works by Schumann and Chopin were perhaps a shade less convincing, if only because what had come before was so rich. But the first encore, a Brahms Intermezzo, restored the sense of experiencing compositional genius, with Perahia achieving a soulful, glistening tone that sent waves of delight through the audience.