Monday, October 20, 2008

Schiff Beethoven Cycle VI

András Schiff, piano
Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 22, 23 (Appassionata), 24, 25, and 26 (Les Adieux)
Sun, Oct 19, 2008 7:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Far from tiring of Schiff & Beethoven, I'm anticipating these recitals. This particular program had a nice over-all shape, since each half could end with a major work. & of course the pieces themselves are becoming more deeply romantic. In this program, I really felt like we were approaching the heart of Beethoven's rage & torment.

One of things that makes Schiff's performances so effective is that he knows how to make a big impression at the beginning & at the end of each piece. He's a great showman in this regard. The Sonata No. 22 starts out quietly & leisurely but ends in a racing flurry of notes that culminates in Schiff leaping up from the keyboard at the final chord. The Sonata No. 23 start with a dark & mysterious statement & finishes with a wild coda that suddenly lurches into a higher gear, with Schiff holding on to the reins to keep it just under control.

After the intermission, he used his great variety of touch to craft little gems out of each movement of the shorter Nos. 24 & 25. He executed another stunning ending for the 1st movement of No. 25, having it suddenly flit away to nothing. Schiff did not leave the stage between the sonatas of the 2nd half, so it was all a lead-in to the heaving, almost anguished, No. 26.

Instead of a Bach encore, Schiff offered us the last movement of Robert Schumann's Fantasie in C. He explained that it is connected directly to Beethoven through a quote to the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte. It was a choice in keeping with a program that looked toward the Romantic era. His performance of this piece may have been the best playing of the evening. It was so lush & lovely that I listened completely rapt & without any desire to critique. I ran into an acquaintance on the way out, a musician himself, & he said of the encore, "It was yummy!"

Another of the great things about these recitals is that people are actually talking about the music & the playing. On my way out I overheard a piano nerd commenting that in the encore Schiff actually grafted an extended portion of the Fantasie's 1st movement onto the last movement. This was in order to include the Beethoven quote. He seemed taken aback by this lapse in Schiff's musical purity. I'm not knowledgeable enough to verify that this is what happened, but I'll take his word for it. This is one of those things that makes me feel inadequate. Should we have recognized this?


Anonymous said...

The original version of the last movement quotes from the first. Mr. Schiff must have played this version. He opts for less-frequently heard versions of other works by Schumann, all for valid reasons and to great effect!

Axel Feldheim said...

Thank you for this knowledgeable response. That's great. So there's no need to be worried about any tampering with Schumann!