Murray Perahia, RFH Winning first prize in an international competition isn't everything, says Adrian Jack

MUSIC Georgia Tomassi, Wigmore Hall
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People still jump at the mention of a first prize in a big international competition, however many times they've been disappointed by the winners in the past. Giorgia Tomassi won the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv four years ago and gave her UK debut recital at the Wigmore Hall last Sunday evening. She's in her mid-twenties and was evidently an early developer, getting another prize as the youngest graduate in Italy. Her choice of programme already said something about her, because it was all big Romantic music that made heavy technical demands. She played both books of Brahms's Paganini Variations, and Liszt's Sonata in B minor, and began with three movements from Bach's E major Violin Partita arranged by Rachmaninov. She played all this well, which in itself is no mean achievement. But she never ventured beyond orthodox good sense, so there was little excitement, and no intensity in the Liszt. The Sonata is full of temptations to go Gothic and over-dramatise; perhaps Tomassi meant to reclaim it as a seriously thoughtful work but, in effect, she depressed Liszt's spirit and tamed it into sobriety.

During his temporary disability with a thumb infection two or three years ago, Murray Perahia made a particular study of Bach, and at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday he gave over the first half of his recital to Scarlatti, Bach and Handel. Three Sonatas by Scarlatti were immaculate but rather tame, although his rapid fingerwork in the A major Sonata, K212, was exquisite.

To Bach's English Suite in F major he brought polished, not to say glossy pianism, but of a generalised, all-purpose character. Neither Handel's Chaconne in G nor Suite in E, ending with the "Harmonious Blacksmith" variations, had much personality. It was all in the manner of treating museum pieces with kid gloves.

But Perahia was in his element after the interval, with Schumann's Kreisleriana. It's a work he's lived with for many years, but his concentration was complete - every phrase was meant, and all the brilliance fully realised as well as the most tender intimacies. You could see him giving extra special attention to the wide-eyed, little right-hand hops in the final number, and they were gorgeous.

After that, Mendelssohn's Andante and Rondo capriccioso took off like a dream, and to prolong the blissful mood, Perahia added two serene Impromptus in E flat and A flat, from Schubert's first set.