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Perahia is both romantic and thoughtful in an exhilarating account of Mozart

BOSTON SYMPHONY

ORCHESTRA

Conducted by Bernard Haitink.

Piano soloist, Murray Perahia.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, and

Bruckner's Symphony No. 9.

Symphony Hall, April 20, 22 & 25

at 8 pm, and today at 2 pm.

Rush seats available for the concerts this afternoon and tomorrow night.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

URRAY PERAHIA PLAYS ON A Steinway, and he uses every inch of his piano's technical advantage over the older "original" instruments which have now come into vogue. The result in Symphony Hall last night was one of the most sensual, yet also intimate performances of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 imaginable.

Bernard Haitink is definitely of the pre-"authentic" school of performance, when it comes to Mozart, and is ideally matched to Perahia's expansive understanding of Mozart. With Haitink in command, every phrase breathes life; and orchestra and soloist are wed together to make a richly-colored, living whole.

Perahia has a way of finding a new hue of color for each measure, and his playing in the opening movement was of unflagging interest: he has a way of making his music smile. For the audience last night, there was pleasure at the discovery of each nuance he uncovered.

Perahia's softer playing was especially profound, and the close relationships Haitink established between orchestral and pianistic voices makes it all the more evocative and arresting.

The slow movement was seriously done, Perahia's playing extending to create a seamless state of serenity. His is a romantic touch, and his music never ceases to sing; but it never fails to ask provocative questions, operating on intellectual as well as on emotional and spiritual levels.

The performance looked inwards as well as expanding outwards, the solo instrument's heartbeat in perfect harmony with that of the BSO.

The final movement saw both soloist and orchestra in a chirpily playful mood: here was Mozart the child, and the child in us all.

The concert concluded with a gripping, if overly-loud performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 9.

Recommended recordings: Arguably the two most thought-provoking recordings of the Mozart Piano Concertos come from Murray Perahia and Malcolm Bilson. Their approaches to Mozart are quite different -- Bilson ever striving to obtain "more from less" on his fortepiano, and succeeding -- Perahia-the-romantic combining wonderfully with Perahia-the-thinker. Murray Perahia performs with the English Chamber Orchestra (which he also conducts) on CBS. Malcolm Bilson plays with the English Baroque Soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner on DG.