Piano proving grounds don't come more efficient than Pierre Boulez's Piano Sonata No. 1, utilizing more of the instrument every 20 seconds than most pieces do in their entirety. On Sunday afternoon, pianist Paavali Jumppanen powered through Boulez's volatile twists and turns to inaugurate the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's new Steinway piano.
The sound of the new piano — selected by Jumppanen on a trip to Steinway's factory in Hamburg this summer — was still veiled behind the pianistic equivalent of new-car smell, the sonic line between resonant and thick not yet clear. But Jumppanen's performance of the Sonata was fierce and strong, its young-man provocations (Boulez wrote it when he was 21) angled to a point. (A sharp one at that: Jumppanen paused before the next number to wipe blood off the keys.)