Monday, April 14, 2008

András Schiff Beethoven Cycle IV

4/13/2008 07:00 PM
Davies Symphony Hall
András Schiff, Piano
Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15
Encore: Bach French Suite #5 in G

This was the biggest audience I'd seen for the cycle so far, no doubt because we reached the Moonlight Sonata with this program. To build anticipation, Schiff even left the stage briefly before playing it. Usually Schiff has remained on stage between sonatas. Typically his use of the sustain pedal is sparing to non-existent, but for the 1st movement he held it down through changes in the harmony. The accumulated chords created a kind of blurry halo of pitches. The accompaniment moved evenly & deliberately, with just a hint of a pulse. The mood was restrained, delicate & fragile. Schiff usually goes straight from one movement to the next, attaca, & in this case the contrast between movements was extreme. Schiff does a good job of preserving the sometimes weird character of Beethoven's music. He received a partial standing ovation before intermission for his rendition of this famous piece.

Schiff continues to play intelligently & with exacting precision in these recitals. I like improvisatory feel he gave to the meandering & sometimes halting Rondo of Sonata #15. He made it humorous & surprising.

As another generous encore, we got the whole of Bach's French Suite in G, executed with Schiff's now familiar crystalline dispatch, plus embellishments.

To emphasize the fact that some of these sonata movements are very quiet, we had a relatively noisy audience. There was a magnificent cougher during the 1st movement of the 1st piece who had 2 outbursts that nearly stopped the performance. Another cougher then made himself known during the 1st movement of the 2nd piece. A couple of other times it sounded like someone slapped a heavy object to the floor.

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