Murray Perahia required the entire first half of his Philharmonic-sponsored recital in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Sunday night to pull himself up to top form. A nagging jangle in the house Steinway may have had something to do with it. Once that was repaired during intermission, the pianistic sailing was smooth and exhilarating.
Beethoven's Sonata in D minor, Opus 31, No. 2, would never have been dubbed "The Tempest" from Perahia's deferentially polite rendering. It did not even stir up a teapot tempest. It was neat and orderly, but Beethoven in D minor takes more doing than that. Nor did it sing with any particular persuasiveness. So fearful of being disrespectful, or for some such reason, Perahia tamed the piece still further by ignoring the specifically indicated long pedal passages in the first movement.
Schumann's currently widely neglected but once enormously popular Sonata No. 2 roused the pianist somewhat from his initial torpor. But he still failed to capture the long Romantic sweep and the sweet tenderness. The fingers, however, labored to good effect, even when Schumann, after ordering his pianist to play as fast as possible, directed him to play still faster.
It took what was likely the first local performance of Michael Tippett's Sonata No. 1 to rout Perahia's inhibitions and marshal his forces in full battle array.
The piece is neither new (1938-1942) nor revolutionary, but as played by Perahia with vast enthusiasm and unaccustomed display of power and vigor, it can be an audience pleaser and an exceedingly grateful task for the pianist. It tosses off folk-like melodies in reckless profusion and grips the attention by clever manipulation of rhythmic meters. The audience loved it.
Once aroused, Perahia settled into a poetic and discerning reading of Chopin's A-flat Ballade. He continued in this Chopinesque vein in the Impromptu No. 3 for the first encore, and was equally considerate of Schubert in his Impromptu in E flat.