Serkin strikingFor Rudolf Serkin, being 82 has no negative effect. His virtuosity, energy, and enthusiasm were evident throughout the entire concert. From the start of the performance, when he bounded on stage to the Steinway grand, (whose sound, by the way, was wonderful), Serkin seemed to draw more and more strength from the enthusiam of the audience.
The only flaw in the concert came in the first pieces, Mozart's Fantasia in C Minor and Sonata in C Minor. The program notes warned: "Indeed the Fantasia is extremely free and passionate, with unexpected key shifts and dramatic gestures." Serkin interpreted the Mozart very romantically -- in a fashion which was traditional in his young years but is nowadays out of vogue. His elaborately stressed arpeggios and emotional changes of tone and volume, although very well presented, were not what I was expecting. All through the piece I longed for a cleaner, more classical Mozartian style: As Serkin played it, this music did not seem to be from Mozart's pen.
I think the audience shared my doubts, for the Mozart was the only piece where Serkin did not receive a standing ovation.
The other two pieces, Beethoven's Sonata No. 21 in C, Op. 53, "Waldstein," and Schubert's Sonata in A major, D 959, showed Serkin in his usual grand form. He is known for playing the romantics, and with these two pieces he captured the attention and appreciation of the audience. The Beethoven, resounding through the expanse of a packed Symphony Hall, was stunning. One could almost feel the expanse of the German countryside, the sound of horses galloping over tiny country roads: Serkin's evocative coloration was of symphonic proportions.
However, we were not listening to an orchestra, but to a solo piano. It is a credit to Serkin's abilities that he can generate such emotion by himself.
The Schubert was very good, also. Unfortunatly, some of the most beautiful, quiet passages were ruined when the "Boston audience" ornamented the Andantino movement with their own Symphony of coughs. Overall, though, Serkin managed to break through all the usual surface noise present in Symphony Hall, and earn a standing ovation at the end of the concert. This was a Tech Performing Arts series concert, and members of the MIT community could have gotten tickets for $6. If you didn't, you should have.