Sir András Schiff does not waste his time with second-tier music. As both pianist and conductor he cultivates a hand-picked repertoire, at the centre of which you find, in addition to Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, of course Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.
To kick off this evening, where Schiff will perform jointly with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, acclaimed as the “best chamber orchestra in the world” by BBC 2 Television, we will hear the overture to Haydn’s opera L’isola disabitata. The libretto by Metastasio tells the story of four castaways, who, after years of struggling to survive on a “desert island”, are rescued – Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, would probably have been known not only to Metastasio. This is followed by what is probably Haydn’s most popular solo keyboard concerto, the concerto in D major Hob. XVIII:11. A final Rondo all’ungharese full of extravagant exoticism ensures an energetic and humorous finish second to none.
After the Symphony No. 88 in G major, in whose third movement Haydn artfully recreated the sounds of a bagpipe, the programme continues with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s brilliant G minor Piano Concerto op. 25, part of the regular repertoire in the 19th century with its rigorous utilisation of “modern” pianistic standards. Carl Reinecke reported that at the Conservatoire de Paris hardly a day went by on which the piece was not played. Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony wraps up the evening – a work whose Finale is in a Neapolitan folk dance style, which the composer had come to know in Amalfi.