I’m grateful to my UK-based student for sending me this link to a German-produced documentary about Murray Perahia. Having watched back-to-back Lang Lang and Kissin mega-tributes, this one stands out as a tone poem, with Murray descending from the heavens to bless humanity with his music. (Murray plays generously throughout the film, and provides a running commentary about each work sampled)
NOT of THIS WORLD, (chosen as a titular eye-grabber) assures viewers that the pianist is a divine, floating musical messenger, third in line from God and Bach.
And without a doubt, any viewer immersed in Perahia’s playing throughout this film, will agree. (Bach, Chopin and Schumann works are pleasingly on display)
The setting is international, minus Manhattan frames—
We see Perahia at his piano, in a Swiss vacation sanctuary serenading his wife, Ninette. In another frame, he’s traveling with her through Warsaw in a limo, peering out at a public display of Chopin’s molded hand. The two are engaged in charming repartee.
Ninette’s appearance is a first for me. She’s hardly if ever exposed in the media as Murray’s life partner. I’ve seen no People Magazine spreads or features-in-progress. That’s because Murray Perahia is NOT Lang Lang, seeking a hyped media spotlight for himself or his family. Any beam of light aimed at him is redirected to the music he plays. It’s so emblematic of his essence, where he regards the composer’s intent as the core of his life’s work.
Scenes in Berlin and the acoustical space Perahia treasures, are focal points of filming. These frames bring his art to life, with a running soundtrack of his Baroque, Classical and Romantic interpretations as accompaniment.
A classmate of mine during my years at the NYC High School of Performing Arts, Murray was a uniquely expressive pianist even then. I’d grab any opportunity to listen to him after school hours as he read through symphonic scores, or convened chamber music rehearsals with very gifted students. The Mendelssohn Trio in D minor stood out as one of his peak performances.
Murray was a teacher in those days, too. Classmates would play for him, while he provided a willing ear, and helpful comments.
Perahia mentors students in the documentary, while his stream of consciousness about teaching, performing, and cataclysmic life events, (his thumb injury) are snatched and framed for posterity. (The pianist is an anachronism, or at least, an OLD WORLD messenger of the Muse)
Recording session excerpts provide a fascinating glimpse of Murray at work.
He interacts with his German sound engineer, Andreas Neubronner, through a painstaking recording process, seeking obsessive levels of “perfection,” though he confesses to putting a project in the past tense once it’s completed. (“I don’t give it a second thought.”)
Chamber music colleagues and Neubronner deify him to an extent that Next to God might have been a better chosen title for this film tribute.
Nonetheless, it’s a must see (and hear) that attaches a $6 price tag for 48-hour access. (As a site bonus, I managed to squeeze in Murray’s performance of Mozart Piano Concerto #27 in Bb with the Berlin Philharmonic at his favored acoustical venue)
It was just as well. I could have been off at ESPN.com wasting time watching a boxing match.
Interview in Israel with Mr. Perahia (In English) Just wait for the opener to end.
Perahia the Artist