Andras Schiff, Wigmore Hall, London
Monday 18 March 2013
When a major pianist tackles the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas the results are always fascinating. Daniel Barenboim’s Southbank performances in 2008 may have had such startling blemishes that he refused to let Radio 3 broadcast them, but they still glow majestically in the memory.
The conclusion of Andras Schiff’s cycle at the Wigmore completes another landmark event: if there have been moments of pure perversity, as when he played the first movement of the ‘Moonlight’ with his foot hard down on the sustaining pedal from start to finish, there have also been stretches of divine inspiration. And thanks to his Wigmore lecture-demonstrations available on the internet we can continue to digest his philosophy of this music at leisure.
His delivery is slow, his manner that of a joke Viennese professor, but his revelations sometimes have a brilliance which takes the breath away. As, for example, when he plays the frisky little opening from one of the most unassuming middle-period works, then turns its harmonic sequence into a chorale, then transposes it down a third, then gently decorates it – and hey presto, we have the floating introduction to that masterpiece in E major, Opus 109.
This is Schiff’s favourite of all the sonatas, and when it was time for an encore after his penultimate recital he played it - to general astonishment - entire. This was not just a stunt: it was also a way of saying something profound about the gargantuan ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata which had been the last work on the evening’s programme. Schiff’s account of that had been magisterial but strikingly conflicted: by segueing into the calm waters of Opus 109, which was Beethoven’s next work in order of composition, Schiff suggested that he had finally left creative conflict behind and broken through onto the exalted plane where his final three sonatas reside.
And Schiff’s account of these was magnificent. There was no interval, nor even a brief retreat backstage to catch his breath: between one sonata and the next his hands never lost contact with the keyboard, so that the recital became one unbroken train of thought. This time Opus 109 was more muscular and direct – it’s different each time he plays it – thus allowing the religious overtones of Opus 110 to emerge with unusual intensity. The great finale of Opus 111 has seldom sounded so visionary, as Beethoven makes his ecstatic ascent to the starry heavens.
peopleContenders for Time magazine's Person of the Year are a mixture of the good, the bad and the holy
tvSteven Moffat reveals the actor was dying to take on the role of the Time Lord and says he is excited to see what he will do with the character
sportBayern Munich 2 Manchester City 3: City come from two down to beat reigning European Champions
newsAs the world remembers Mandela the hero, the prison where he spent 27 years seems all the more brutal
arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
danceUnder Tamara Rojo's inspired direction, it seems possible that it could challenge the dominance of the Royal Ballet. We meet some established names and rising stars
travelDiscover Uruguay's jet-set beach resort, an Atlantic enclave with plenty of art and culture to explore on the side
Arts & Ents blogs
The X Factor winners: Where are they doing now?
Ben Whishaw to play Freddie Mercury in Dexter Fletcher film
Back from the dead? Family Guy's Brian Griffin 'to make a comeback' after fan petition
Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat says Peter Capaldi is NOT Malcolm Tucker
Emma Stone: 'Dating Andrew Garfield makes living in LA a lot less fun'
- 1 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 2 Sir Ian McKellen hits back at Damian Lewis' 'fruity actor' claims
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- 5 Is Facebook making us forget? Study shows that taking pictures ruin memories
- < Previous
- Next >