Serkin splendid in Beethoven recitalPeter Serkin, in an all-Beethoven program at Jordan Hall, April 14.
In a recital that was part of the Wang Celebrity Series, Peter Serkin played Beethoven's last piano sonatas, #30 op. 109, #31 op.110 and #32 op.111.
Beethoven wrote these sonatas between 1820 and 1822, the beginning of the last decade of his life. During the same period the composer was working on some of his most grandiose works -- the Missa Solemnis, the Ninth Symphony, the Diabelli Variations and the Razumovsky Quartets. The last three piano sonatas are not less monumental than their orchestral and chamber music counterparts. Technically difficult, unorthodox and daring in form, they are, for any musician, among the most important challenges in his or her artistic development.
Serkin gave a superb performance. His playing spoke clearly for his artistic prowess and for the depth and vastness of his musical understanding. The only thing one might reproach him is a slight timidity, a tendency to hesitate during the most delicate passages. But this is perhaps to be expected of any young artist.
The beginning of the E major Sonata op.109 was somewhat hasty, thus blurring the fantasy-like character of the Vivace. However, in the following Prestissimo the emotions became uncompromising, and the final Andante cantabile was as beautiful as it was lucid and powerfully interpreted.
The following sonata, in A flat, came as a continuation of the first. Less abstract and perhaps more immediately emotionally satisfying than the previous one, this piece is memorable for the Adagio, the Recitativo and the fugue in its middle section. Again, a few notes in the Adagio vanished under the delicacy of Serkin's touch, but the beauty of the expression throughout was compelling.
The final -- C minor -- sonata, is the longest of all three. It opens with the indication Maestoso and continues with Allegro con brio ed appassionato. The movement -- a deluge of themes, rhythms and harmonies -- was played with passion and artistic mastery.
The second half of the sonata is an Arietta -- a theme with variations which dominates the entire sonata. Its melodic beauty and the simplicity it retains despite the musical complexity underlying it shone through unblemished in Serkin's playing.
His entire performance, filled with emotion, delicacy and the utmost control, was of the highest quality.