As spring begins, Andras Schiff offers an autumnal program

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Ricordanza
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Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

As spring begins, Andras Schiff offers an autumnal program

Post by Ricordanza » Mon Apr 02, 2018 5:12 pm

For his piano recital on Saturday evening, March 31, Andras Schiff presented a program that had a distinct autumnal flavor:

Schumann: Theme and Variations in E-flat Major, Woo [without opus number] 24
Brahms: Three Intermezzos, Op. 117
Mozart: Rondo in A Minor, K. 511
Brahms: Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118

Intermission

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 869
Brahms: Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119
Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, Les Adieux

Most of these pieces were written late in their respective composer’s career, and most have a reflective, somber tone. Indeed, the opening work was composed at a desperate time in Schumann’s life. After composing the fourth variation, Schumann threw himself in the Rhine, attempting to kill himself. On the day after he was rescued, he completed the fifth and final variation. Shortly thereafter, he entered an asylum.

In lesser hands, a program like this could have resulted in a melancholy experience, a real “downer.” But in the hands of a master like Schiff, we were treated to an evening of superb pianism and consummate musicianship.

With a couple of exceptions, I’ll refrain from commenting on Schiff’s performance of each individual piece. Not only would it lengthen this review, but it would be inconsistent with Schiff’s approach to this recital, as he presented each half without pausing between each piece. How did the audience know that this was his intent? There was no announcement in advance. Rather, Schiff kept his hands on the keys at the conclusion of each piece, and the receptive and sophisticated audience that attends these recitals held their applause until the end of the half.

There were other unique aspects to this recital. First, instead of the usual Steinway, the piano used by Schiff was a Bosendorfer, with a rich and mellow sound. Second, the piano was tilted slightly toward the audience, so that more of the audience had a “keyboard” view. I now realize that there was another reason this was done--so that more of the audience would see him keep his hands on the keyboard at the conclusion of each piece, and thus, refrain from applause.

The 13 pieces which constitute Brahms’ Opus Numbers 117, 118 and 119 are, for the most part, rather intimate and restrained. They are also some of the most sensually beautiful works in the piano repertory. The first two pieces of Op 118, in particular, stand out for me. In each of these pieces, Schiff’s superb dynamic control and subtle adjustments of rhythm provided exquisite renditions of these pieces.

Schiff concluded the announced program with one of my favorite Beethoven sonatas, Les Adieux. The first two movements—supposedly depicting farewell and absence—certainly fit with the theme of the evening. But the third movement—the return—is joyous and bold. Schiff captured each of these varied moods perfectly.

After an enthusiastic ovation, Schiff offered a rather lengthy encore: Bach’s Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother, BWV 992. The title of the piece certainly matched the theme of the Beethoven sonata, but I can’t say that the music was particularly mournful. Perhaps the brother returned, as the piece ends with an exuberant fugue.

Belle
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Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:45 am

Re: As spring begins, Andras Schiff offers an autumnal program

Post by Belle » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:12 pm

When I saw Schiff at the Wiener Konzerthaus in 2011 he played encores for nearly 20 minutes and people started to leave as they had trains to catch. It was as though he didn't want to leave the stage and the recital ended quite late.

Ricordanza
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Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: As spring begins, Andras Schiff offers an autumnal program

Post by Ricordanza » Wed Apr 04, 2018 6:24 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:12 pm
When I saw Schiff at the Wiener Konzerthaus in 2011 he played encores for nearly 20 minutes and people started to leave as they had trains to catch. It was as though he didn't want to leave the stage and the recital ended quite late.
I didn't time it, but I looked up this piece on YouTube and it runs about 11 minutes. That's longer than the usual encore piece, but the longest in my experience was at a NYC recital by Marc-Andre Hamelin about 12 years ago--he played the entire Op. 111 by Beethoven as an encore!

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