Great Performers Series
Sun, Apr 5, 2009 7:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall
Piano Sonatas Nos. 30, 31, and 32
As I read the program for this final evening of the cycle & contemplated the meatiness of these concerts, for a moment it seemed to me reasonable for Mr. Schiff to offer the Diabelli Variations as an encore! Fortunately Mr. Schiff is not so vulgar. As last week, he played the entire program without an intermission & this time without even leaving the stage. Within each sonata, movements followed one another without a break. The program as a whole almost felt like 3 large contrasting movements.
Schiff began No. 30 with an incredibly light, delicate & fluid touch. The sonata ends softly, in a mood of regret. The slow movement of No. 31 is so intimate & flowing that it starts to sound like Chopin. Mr. Schiff did a wonderfully floating passage in which the damper pedal was held down while notes were played with great delicacy over a sustained chord. He also executed what looked like an extremely awkward hand-crossing passage with practiced efficiency. He made the powerful ending feel like a great force was just barely being kept under control.
No. 32 began with 2 ferociously played chords. What followed was a non-stop stream of tonal colors, detailed phrasing & sudden changes of mood, often within the same phrase. Mr. Schiff had an incredible variety of sounds & articulations for each of the variations in the final movement. He did amazingly tight & expressive trills, rang beautiful bell-like figurations from high up the keyboard, pulled dark sounds out of the bass, & flirted with the edges of audibility. I felt like this final sonata was not a culmination but rather a wide-ranging compendium of feelings. Instead of a big noisy climax, the movement ends with a few unostentatious chords, a gesture of kindness instead of might. Mr. Schiff also gave us a final bit of showmanship, holding down the last notes well into silence. Unfortunately an over-eager clapper broke into this silence before Mr. Schiff at last took his hands off the keyboard. Mr. Schiff then put his hands on top of the piano & heavily hoisted himself up to standing. A bit theatrical, but I loved it!
Of course he received cheers & a standing ovation. He was recalled to the stage at least 4 times but tastefully refrained from offering an encore. I was thinking of the challenges Mr. Schiff has faced as a performer over this cycle. I've felt that the Davies Hall audiences have often been restless, & this evening he had to put up with people entering the terrace while he was playing, a ringtone going off quite near the stage, & things being dropped on the floor. Yet he's been a class act all the way.