The repertoire of Sir András Schiff is in a unique way as narrow as it is broad. The pianist, who was born in Budapest in 1953, has shown little interest in piano music by composers on the periphery of music history in the course of his more than 40 year career. Instead, Schiff, who was knighted three years ago for his contribution to the arts by the head of state of the UK, his adopted home for many years, has concentrated rather on the performance of groundbreaking works from the Baroque era to classical Modernism from the outset. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bartók along with Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Schumann are Schiff’s musical household gods. And he occasionally pays tribute to Domenico Scarlatti, Mendelssohn and Janáček with performances characterised by his subtle touch. But no matter which of these composers he tackles – he does it with absolute dedication, the greatest technical mastery and an understanding of the work that is inspired by the relationship between his knowledge of interpretive traditions and the expectations of listeners of our time. As in the first of the two recitals that he gives at the Philharmonie in the 2017/2018 season, Schiff has put a programme together for this concert that revolves entirely around Johannes Brahms.
In the first part of the concert, in addition to his three last piano cycles, composed between 1892/1893, Schiff performs both Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K. 511 which looks ahead to the Romantic era, plus the legendary E-flat major variations by Robert Schumann whose theme, wrote Clara Schumann in her diary, was dictated to the composer by the spirits of Schubert and Mendelssohn. The second part of the concert, in addition to the Prelude and Fugue in B minor BWV 869 from the first volume of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, also includes Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-flat major, op. 81a Les Adieux.