Andras Schiff - 61 examples of piano mastery

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Andras Schiff - 61 examples of piano mastery

Post by Ricordanza » Sun May 13, 2012 7:55 am

Until this week, this season’s piano recital series at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society has featured the “big” pieces: Two pianists (Arnaldo Cohen and Garrick Ohlsson) tackling Liszt’s massive Sonata in B Minor; Christian Zacharias playing the expansive Schubert Sonata in D Major, D. 850; Anton Kuerti playing five Beethoven sonatas; and Marc-Andre Hamelin offering the Brahms Sonata No. 3 in F Minor.

But on Tuesday evening, Andras Schiff presented a program of shorter works, no less than 60 of them, plus one encore. Most were not longer than two minutes, but it would be somewhat misleading to call all of them “miniatures.” No one would use that term, for example, to describe the Bach Inventions, 15 of which were included in the first half of Schiff’s program.

Miniatures or not, the first half of the program was a tour de force unlike any piano recital I have attended. Schiff presented a total of 45 pieces without pause, playing three Inventions at a time, bracketing other works. For example, following the first three Inventions (including the C Major, BMV 772, played by just about every piano student), we heard ten pieces from Bela Bartok’s Suite For Children. Then another three inventions, and more Bartok, the highly entertaining Three Burlesques. In between the next three sets of Inventions, we heard an intriguing suite of 11 pieces by the young German composer Jörg Widmann entitled Circus Dances, and then, Bartok’s Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, the last six pieces of Bartok’s 153-piece series Mikrokosmos.

If presenting these widely varied pieces, separated by style and nearly 300 years, in one continuous block, sounds like a stunt or mere eccentricity, I can only say, “you had to be there.” Or I could point out that even among these varied works, common threads emerged: The second of Widmann’s pieces, entitled “Boogie Woogie,” was not totally dissimilar from the sixth of the Bartok Bulgarian dances. Bach’s Invention in F Minor, BMV 780, has a syncopated rhythm echoed in both Bartok and Widmann. But equally important, Schiff brought his absolute mastery of the keyboard to each of these pieces, and the audience gave him a tremendous ovation when he completed this first part of the marathon.

After intermission (during which "Cliftwood" and I exchanged superlatives), Schiff offered a wonderful rendition of Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, Op. 126. Following that, he played four recent elegies by Schiff’s fellow Hungarian, Gyorgy Kurtag. My honest reaction: now that I’ve heard Kurtag’s music for the first time, I know what to avoid in future concerts. Finally, more great Bartok, the five pieces of the suite Out of Doors.

Although this program lasted a half hour more than most piano recitals, there was time for one encore. Schiff announced that he would play “something more familiar” and ended the evening with a gorgeous version of Brahms’ Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 1.

This was a landmark recital for me in many ways. I had been impressed with Schiff the first time I heard him in recital, in October 2008, playing a more traditional program of Beethoven sonatas. But I was even more impressed with this second opportunity to hear him. It was certainly one of the most imaginatively programmed recitals I had attended, and offered the opportunity to hear many works (including all of the Bartok pieces) for the first time. And Schiff’s masterful playing, from the simplest Bach Invention to the thorniest Bartok work, was evident throughout this program.

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Re: Andras Schiff - 61 examples of piano mastery

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:57 pm

You see, this is why I never had a concert career. I wanted to play a program of pieces such as the Two-Part Inventions, but dear old Mrs. Troidle convinced me that I had to wow them with a Brahms concerto first. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Andras Schiff - 61 examples of piano mastery

Post by John F » Sat Jun 30, 2012 5:16 pm

Now that's truly original programming. I'd like to have been there.
John Francis

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