András Schiff András Schiff András Schiff
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András Schiff

Date of Event

Monday, 1. 6. 2020 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 21.45

Price

350 - 1 200 CZK

Program

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major Op. 110
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op. 111

Interprets

  • András Schiff - piano

The now legendary pianist András Schiff is regarded as one of the finest performers of the Baroque and Classical repertoire. “In Schubert Schiff has a claim to be considered sovereign among today’s players,” writes Gramophone magazine. “He carries forward the reading and interpretation of him into areas that others have not fully explored.”

Ranked by critics alongside the greatest Hungarian artists since the time of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, Schiff is Artist-in-Residence of this year’s Prague Spring festival. In addition to a recital he will be appearing as a soloist with the St Petersburg Philharmonic (30 May) and in a chamber music concert with the Panocha Quartet (3 June).

The recital programme promises true gems of the piano repertoire – the last three sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). The music, whose depth, intensity and sense of urgency captivate listeners across the generations to this day, is also stunning for its innovation, which allows it to exist outside time and space. Schiff’s philosophical immersion makes him the ideal performer. As a reviewer for The Washington Post noted after one of his recitals two years ago, “to attend an András Schiff recital is to enter a secular temple to music. The eminent Hungarian-born British pianist carries himself like a high priest of Viennese Classicism, communing with the musical gods with an air of becalmed reverence.”

The piano was fundamental to Beethoven, a fact manifested in his many works for this instrument – thirty-two sonatas, five piano concertos and dozens of chamber works. Beethoven was also one of the composers who played a role in the structural development of the piano. He followed the innovations of leading keyboard makers and took into account the new features and characteristics of these instruments in his compositions. For example, the English piano action mechanism gave him a softer sound and the ability to create a greater distinction between individual voices in his polyphonic writing. In his compositions he didn’t limit himself to simple soft-loud dynamics, as was still the custom in the Classical period, but instead anticipated the use of the wide range of dynamics afforded by the modern piano. He began to draw on the entire length of the keyboard and in his piano stylisation managed to imitate the richness of the full orchestral sound. At the time he was writing his last three piano sonatas his hearing loss had become profound, yet when we experience the precision and clarity of the music, we can only marvel at his imagination and the power of his “mind’s ear”.

These works betray the fact that Beethoven did not feel the need to write virtuosic pieces, as he had in the case of the Waldstein or Appassionata sonatas; these opuses could be seen more as innermost confessions. He wrote his last three sonatas in the years 1819-1822, and together they reflect a remarkable spiritual unity. As composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni aptly noted, it’s easier to master them through one’s fingers than through one’s spirit.

The dedication accompanying Sonata in E major offers a convincing testimony of the piece’s philosophical scope – Beethoven stated that the work is possessed by “a spirit uniting noble people throughout the world”. Sonata in A flat major does not bear a specific dedication, although Beethoven wrote it after suffering pneumonia, jaundice and a prolonged bout of conjunctivitis. The sonata might be taken as a kind of expression of thanks for his recovery – the Italian notes in the manuscript also attest to this. He dedicated his last piano sonata to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, the Archbishop of Olomouc, who had commissioned the composer’s monumental Missa solemnis to mark his induction into office. The superb variational movement of Sonata in C minor constitutes the impeccable culmination of his series of thirty-two piano sonatas – and it would be difficult to imagine that anything more perfect could have followed this masterpiece.