Murray Perahia -- When the piano man can't play

Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:58am EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

BUCHAREST (Reuters Life!) - His fans call classical virtuoso Murray Perahia "the poet of the piano," but he very nearly became a silent one.

In 1991, at the height of his career, after winning piano competitions, releasing several award-winning recordings and wowing critics and audiences alike, the Bronx-born Perahia cut his right thumb and the resulting infection turned septic.

The pain forced him to give up playing for two years while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. He resumed his career in 1993, only to give it up again in 2004 when the condition flared up anew.

"It is awful, awful," Perahia, 62, told Reuters in Bucharest where he conducted -- and played piano -- in two concerts with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields for an adoring audience during the biennial Enescu Festival in the Romanian capital.

"I'm not a depressive person, but this drove me pretty close to depression, although I didn't go quite that far," he added.

"I was very down and frustrated and I couldn't see my life outside music so I had to do things like editing, studying and I did some teaching during that time, but it was very difficult."

Now he is back in the concert hall and the recording studio, regaling his legions of listeners with thoughtful, meticulously played but soulful interpretations of Beethoven, Bach and Chopin, plus some conducting when time allows.

Yet there is always the worry in the background, that something not quite understood may strike again.   Continued...