“I am only interested in the best and greatest music. And there is so much of it for the piano. It’s a gift!” the pianist Sir András Schiff admitted in an interview for the magazine of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The Berliner Philharmoniker and their concert series have benefited from this interest.
In 1989 the Budapest-born musician made his debut with the orchestra under the baton of Seiji Ozawa with Johannes Brahms First Piano Concerto. To date, he has performed many great concertos of the piano repertoire at the Philharmonie. And on top of all that, the Hungarian pianist, who has been a British citizen since 2001 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2014, has been surprising audiences with unusual concert programmes for many years.
New perspectives on well-known works
“I want us to breath new life into our concerts; this can be achieved educationally – in the best sense of the word – with good programming,” says the artist, who captivates audiences with his well-articulated and analytical but at the same time deeply felt playing. “Putting the programmes together gives me enormous pleasure. There is a lot of thought behind them, because they should not merely be entertaining. It is important to me that people feel comfortable at a concert - but it isn't enough to play only a few popular pieces, as is very often the case.” András Schiff is not only a busy soloist and occasional conductor, but also a keen chamber musician. Berlin audiences saw this for themselves many times during his residency with the Philharmoniker in 2007/08, and again in the years since.
In search of connections
András Schiff is not only a busy soloist and occasional conductor, but also a keen chamber musician. Berlin audiences saw this for themselves His Bach and Beethoven cycles are legendary. He also dedicated a concert series to the last sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, and forged piano works by Bach, Bartók, Janáček and Schumann into a compelling cycle. “My mission is to be inquisitive, to look for and find the connections between the pieces.” Despite his sophisticated programming, there are three composers whose works are constants in his repertoire: Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Johann Sebastian Bach. The latter is – according to Sir András Schiff – his favourite composer and at the same time the heart of our Western music: “Bach forms the pinnacle. All subsequent composers reference him in some way.” According to András Schiff, his interest in the Baroque composer shapes his music-making as a whole – whether he is playing piano works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann or Bartók.