“Bach epitomizes the apex of European music history”, says András Schiff. “Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Bartók – they all come from Bach.” No wonder that the Austria-British master pianist with Hungarian roots, who again and again ensures markedly richly coloured and poetic interpretations with a “subtle, magical control of touch” (Der Tagesspiegel), will commence his three Philharmonic concerts in this season with works by Johann Sebastian Bach. On this first recital, Schiff has programmed the 15 Two-Part Inventions BWV 772-786, followed by excerpts from Bartók’s enchanting folk song arrangements For Children, as well as his Rondos on Slovak Folk Tunes and the Three Burlesques, whose Number Two (“A little tipsy”) – to be performed “in a staggering rhythm” – reflects Bartók’s keen sense of humour.
The collection On an Overgrown Path, in contrast, is one of the most profound works that Leoš Janáček wrote: music of dark harmonies, obsessive rhythms and dramatic outbursts, culminating in the oppressive atmosphere of the last piece, “The barn owl has not flown away!” Compared with this, Robert Schumann composed a thoroughly poetic dance cycle with his Davidsbündlertänze: the 18 character pieces describe in music the composer’s two-faced alter ego, Florestan, who “rages passionately forward”, and “the soft youth” Eusebius. “The first edition,” András Schiff has said, “contains many extra-musical instructions for ‘E’ [Eusebius] and ‘F’ [Florestan], and you can even find concealed stage instructions.”