Andras Schiff's new Bach cycle: Classical review - 'he played with concentrated brilliance'

Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

After his revelatory Beethoven cycle at the Wigmore, Andras Schiff has now embarked on a Bach cycle which promises to be no less remarkable.

And although he’s forsaken his 90-year-old Bechstein for a modern Steinway, he’s abjuring all use of the sustaining pedal: with the “Wohltemperierte Clavier” he wants to conjure up all the work’s colours – the yellows, oranges, and reds, and the final progress via blue to black – using nothing but his hands.

From the outset his larger goal is clear: to bring out the variety of the musical worlds which these preludes and fugues embody.

In my notes on his first recital the word ‘beauty’ doesn’t appear once. Indeed, my initial scribbles reflect irritation: did this music really have to be so mannered and didactic? But my ears had been more attuned to the conventional pianistic approach: what Schiff was doing, I realised, was emphasising the unique character of each piece, so that the sinfonias, fantasias, cantatas, and chorales normally hidden in them emerged in bold close-up, as the quirky masterpieces they are.

Schiff played with concentrated brilliance for 120 minutes without an interval, and we were spellbound all the way. The other recitals will be hot tickets, so book now.