Andras Schiff’s “Hommage à Leipzig” spanned several centuries and deviated from this German geography only by including Beethoven’s “Tempest” sonata at the end. We had not been given the program in advanced, but were rather cued to expect Classical and early Romantic works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, with each selection to be introduced from the stage. That gave Schiff the chance to act as an engaging tour guide, music historian, and raconteur. His conversation with an alert and receptive crowd added much to the value of his recital.
At Jordan Hall last night, Schiff’s artistry rewarded us tremendously. In the delicate strains of the Aria from Bach’s Aria Goldberg Variations, he produced a warm, intimate sound that nevertheless filled the hall. His romantic take allowed each note to flow effortlessly as the melodic lines intertwined with grace and precision.
Bach’s Italian Concerto exuded exuberance and vivacity and testified to his technical prowess and deep understanding of the Baroque style. He simulated the contrasting voices of a two-manual harpsichord, creating a clear-cut conversation between the upper and lower registers on of the piano.
Schiff then characterized Mendelssohn’s Variations Sérieuses, with a masterful display of emotional investment, bringing out the dramatic shifts in dynamics and mood, from melancholic introspection to fiery virtuosity. His rich, expressive storytelling held us spellbound.
Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze embody the composer’s standing, and Schiff alternately impersonated Florestan’s bold and extroverted nature and Eusebius’s introspective and tender side. The music danced and leaped under Schiff’s hands, drawing the audience into Schumann’s whimsical world of fantasy.
After intermission Schiff traversed Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue with clarity and brilliance. The Fantasia showcased his ability to create a sense of wonder and exploration, while the Fugue displayed his precision and control. He executed the complex counterpoint and intricate ornamentation in the Fugue executed with flawless technique, leaving no doubt of his intellectual command of Bach’s demands.
An electrifying turn ensued with a very dynamic account of Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata. From the tempestuous opening chords to the contemplative second movement and the exhilarating finale, Schiff’s captured of Beethoven’s unshakable Geist. Carried along on a tumultuous journey through the sonata’s stormy seas, we experienced the full range of Beethoven’s emotional palette.
Schiff’s delightful first encore, Mozart’s charming and jovial little Gigue, KV 574 brought broad smiles to us all.
Responding to the demand for a second encore, Schiff gave the Allegro first movement from Mozart’s familiar Sonata Facile. Schiff’s impeccable phrasing, dynamic graduations, rapid passages, and inevitable-feeling ornamentation left us both in awe and high spirits .
Schiff’s recital had been a musical journey through time—from Baroque to Romantic, and into the 19th century—capturing the essence of each era with authenticity and depth.