From the introductory falling C-major chord, Raim elucidated with near- perfect fluency the playful questioning of Haydn's calmly ingenious mind. She played with balances and proportions, with questions of size and shape and articulative confidence, with the lucidity one finds in a page of Voltaire.
From the sunlight of an 18th-century terrace to the upholstered parlors of the 19th-century heart is a long leap, but Raim approached Brahms' melancholy as perspicaciously as she had Haydn's sanguine soul. The ardor of these various capriccios and intermezzos was the ardor of the repressed heart; there were no mannerisms nor exaggerations to vulgarize Brahms' wrenching emotions, as is often the case.
Only in the Schumann Carnaval, which followed intermission, did Raim's conception fall something short of expectations. Taking her premise from the striding Preambule and cocky "Marche des Davidsbundler contre les Philistins," which open and close the work, she seemed to be suggesting that we view these famous characterizations as a concerto struggling to be born.
It was a risk worth taking and pleasurable for all that, although such a gigantic overview did not compensate for the edge of delicacy and humor lost in the tenderer illustrations. That is not to say that most of the pieces did not flow with finesse or apt conviction, for instance the shy dreams of ''Eusebius" and explosive force of "Paganini." But the pianist robbed herself of her otherwise splendidly deployed keyboard color when she pressed for heroism and grandeur over beauty of tone. Schumann, always the poet, was only occasionally a gladiator.