I attended his SF recital last night. Good lord, I don't think I've ever witnessed such an audacious display of technique, power, and yes, poetry, and I saw Berman in his prime, Volodos, Hamelin--none came close! His program:
Schubert, Sonata A Minor, op. 143
Beethoven, Sonata F Minor #23, op. 57 (Appasionata)
Liszt, Mephisto Waltz #1, S.514
Rachmaninoff, Sonata B-flat Minor #2, op.36 Second Edition
He was not all blood and thunder, as the poetic sections sang as beautifully as anyone could wish. The treacherous left hand leaps near the end of "The Mephisto Waltz" were staggeringly fast and accurate.
He played five encores; the fourth was Scriabin's Etude Op.8 No.12, which would have made a fine, thunderous conclusion to the evening, but he whipped the audience into a frenzy with Ginzburg's arrangement of "In the Hall of the Mountain King." Now, really, I have never seen or heard anything quite like that, including his own recording on his Carnegie Hall recital CD--at the climax he seemed to have added some extra octaves or something--it just defied belief. In fact, the woman in front of me, a professional pianist based on her conversations, grabbed her face and shook her head (in a good way, I think)!
He's definitely a throw back to the "Golden Age" of pianists. I can see that some might think he hammers out the fortissimo passages too intensely, but I'll take that over the overly cautious, dainty approach of a lot players.
well, i gave the Liszt a listen and while I do not like what the conductor has done with the tempo or much of the orchestral expression, i do like his playing very much...my favorite of this piece is by Rubinstein and the CSO under the baton of Carlo Maria Giulini