Wednesday, April 01, 2009

András Schiff: Beethoven Sonatas VII

Great Performers Series
Sun, Mar 29, 2009 7:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

András Schiff

Piano Sonatas Nos. 27, 28, and 29 (Hammerklavier)

As Schiff nears the end of his Beethoven cycle, he's getting frighteningly intense. I knew that he meant business when I opened my program & read that there would be no intermission. He did leave the stage before the Hammerklavier, but he took only the briefest of pauses. In the end, he played for nearly 1 & 3/4 hours without a break.

As expected, his playing was very crisp & constantly interesting. His playing became increasingly dramatic in No. 28. He made much of the capricious transition between the last movements. On the violent final chord of that sonata, he just about leapt backward off his bench, his arms thrown over his head.

He got even more worked up in the Hammerklavier. At times he resorted to holding down keys & vibrating them. It was an interpretation of extreme contrasts & vehemence. A couple of days later, I'm still hearing some of the really percussive passages in my head. Taking a cue from the fugue of the last movement, Schiff offered an encore of Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue which was very clear & pointed. He startled the audience by coming back & sitting down again, trying to calm us by saying, "Don't worry, it's short." He then gave us a rapid & impertinent Gigue by Mozart. Perhaps Mr. Schiff felt that there hadn't been enough humor in this program.

Although there were a lot of empty seats in the orchestra section, the audience gave Schiff enthusiastic & prolonged applause. There was an especially vocal cheering section somewhere in the balconies.

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