Brahms centre stage

The piano recitals of Sir András Schiff

Sir András Schiff
(Photo: Peter Fischli)

“I’m only interested in the best and greatest music. And there’s so much of it for piano. It’s a real gift!” as pianist Sir András Schiff said in his interview for the Philharmoniker’s magazine 128. The Berliner Philharmoniker and their concert series have benefited from this interest since 1989, when he made his debut with the orchestra under the direction of Seiji Ozawa with a performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto. Since then, he has performed almost all of the major piano concertos of the repertoire in the Philharmonie – and much more! For years, the native Hungarian, who has been a British citizen since 2001 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2014, has continued to surprise audiences with unusual concert programmes.

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.”

In search of connections

In recent years, he has dedicated a series of concerts to the last Sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert in a highly exciting cycle, linking these works to piano works by Bach, Bartók, Janáček and Schumann: “My job is to seek out and find the connections between the pieces.” In his two recitals this season, compositions by Johannes Brahms take centre stage. In the first concert, Schiff juxtaposes his Acht Klavierstücke op. 76 and Seven Fantasies, op. 116 with Felix Mendelssohn’s Fantasy in F sharp minor op. 28 Sonate écossaise, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s English Suite No. 6 – three composers who Brahms studied intensively. The programme of the second concert focuses on Brahms’ late piano works, complemented by pieces by Bach and Beethoven. Plus, in addition to works by Bach and Beethoven, there are also Robert Schumann’s Geistervariationen and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Rondo in A minor KV 511.