But it's the balance here between the honed and unhoned, the brawn and beauty, the elegance and wit of this astonishing music that make these readings special. Performances of the first and second concertos are invariably about brute force and no music. Keyboard giants pumping iron. Empty gestures, empty notes. Schiff and his conductor, Ivn Fischer, are exciting (and how) because there aren't any empty notes. Every note (and none goes unheard thanks to some brilliant engineering) is a sparking plug, a combustible life-force in Bartk's engine. There is genuine exhilaration (and logic and purpose) here in the contrapuntal ingenuity of the writing. The spirit is in the counterpoint, the interplay of voices. Like Bach, like Bartk. But then to emerge into the twilight of the reflective Third Concerto - it's like suddenly achieving a state of grace. For Bartk, in the last year of his life, that's exactly what it was. And that's exactly how Schiff plays it. Marvellous. The first important release of the year.
Edward SeckersonReuse content