Since 1989, Sir András Schiff has had the closest of artistic ties with the Berliner Philharmoniker – not only as a popular soloist in the orchestra’s concerts, but also as a chamber music partner of members of the orchestra and, of course, on many occasions, in his theme-based solo recitals. In the past, at the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation, Schiff presented not just his interpretations of the complete piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven in a cycle spanning two seasons, but in a comprehensive series of concerts over three evenings entitled Last Sonatas, he also explored the late piano works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. In the two piano recitals that he gives in the main auditorium of the Philharmonie in the 2017/2018 season, Schiff presents the music of Johannes Brahms in the fascinating context of piano works by other composers.
On the first of the two nights, he plays the Eight Piano Pieces, op. 76, published in 1879, and the Seven Fantasias, op. 116 from 13 years later by Brahms, preceded by Felix Mendelssohn’s Fantasy in F sharp minor, op. 28, published in 1834. This technically extremely demanding work shifts between the multi-movement genre of the classical sonata and the freely structured, through-composed fantasy, but at the same time places pianistic brilliance at the service of large-scale formal structures – and thus, just as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in F sharp major, exemplifies the music historical background before which Brahms, through his exploration of different compositional traditions, followed his own path as a creator of piano music. The evening closes with the English Suite no. 6 BWV 811 by Johann Sebastian Bach, revered by Brahms and Mendelssohn equally. Schiff’s second recital, which adds works by Mozart and Schumann to the pianistic discourse, takes place on 5 February.