Clearly the word has gotten out about Canadian pianist Louis Lortie, because there were a lot of people who didn't get to the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium early enough to get seats Saturday. They missed a phenomenal recital.

Lortie doesn't mess around. He played all 27 of Chopin's Etudes with the authority and joyous abandon of a true master. Everything was direct and clear. His legatos were silken, almost belying the realities of the piano's keyboard action. His staccatos, arpeggios and runs had absolute rhythmic integrity. Lines were exquisitely in balance, and throughout, there was a sense of compelling momentum.

Chopin devised these Etudes, two sets of 12 in different keys and a group of three that he wrote on commission, as exercises on particular technical problems. Each is a miniature gem, with its own challenges, its own mood and its own particular musical demands.

Lortie handled with aplomb not only the technical hurdles, but the musical and emotional ones as well. He paced the succession of pieces as carefully as he paced the music itself, creating out of each group of 12 a large and logically coherent structure. And he made it sound so easy!