Friday, June 26, 2009

Beethoven and Murray Perahia

As music tonight -- I've been reading and I'll work on my column a little later, I have on an interesting CD with Murray Perahia, the pianist, conducting an arrangement for full string orchestra of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 12 (E-flat major, Op. 127). It is remarkably effective. What makes it sound "symphonic," I think (besides the fact that Beethoven's string quartets in general have as many interesting tunes and ideas, and as elaborate sections of development as most symphonies) is the fact that in arranging it Mr. Perahia used double basses, tastefully, to double the cello line (and once in a while the viola), which adds depth and richness to the sound.

I suspect I still have, in a cupboard somewhere, the version of this piece I had on vinyl, acquired probably in the mid-60s, with the Budapest String Quartet, but I haven't listened to it in years. (Besides, my favorite was the 9th.) But I did recognize parts of the original in this version. Four instruments make for a much lighter sound (although Beethoven worked the lower register of the cello profitably to enhance sonority in the quartet). This richer version might not be for everybody who knows the original, but I like it. Perahia also plays the Piano Sonata No. 28 (A Major, Op. 101) in a new revision he did. The man knows how to tickle the ivories soulfully!

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