András Schiff

"Bechstein sounds like something from a world that vanished long ago."

András Schiff

 

András Schiff (born in Budapest in 1953) ranks among the most successful pianists of the early 21st century. His repertoire focuses on works by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók. In the last decade, he recorded and performed live, in nearly twenty cities, all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. He regularly plays on a C. Bechstein concert grand that was once used by Wilhelm Backhaus. Schiff, who has performed repeatedly with the world’s greatest ensembles and conductors, now enjoys playing piano concertos by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven with small formations, especially the Capella Andrea Barca that he founded in 1999. He also regularly performs with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which is not surprising, as he has loved chamber music since he was a child.  

Schiff was the art director of the Mondsee festival from 1989 until 1998, founded the Ittinger Pfingstkonzerte together with Heinz Holliger in 1995 and has been the director of the “Omaggio a Palladio” festival held in Vicenza’s Olympic theatre since 1998.  

An honorary member of Bonn’s Beethoven House since 2006, András Schiff is a laureate of numerous awards, including the 2011 Robert Schumann Prize, the 2012 golden medal of Salzburg’s Mozarteum and the Pour le Mérite medal of the Federal Republic of Germany in the  Sciences and Fine Arts category. Moreover, the Henle Werke music publishing house entrusted him in 2006 with the reprint of the original scores of Mozart’s piano concertos and Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier.   Among his countless CDs, his recent recording of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations was particularly acclaimed for its originality: Schiff recorded the work in part on a Bechstein grand made in 1921, and in part on a fortepiano made in Vienna by Franz Brodmann around 1820. According to the pianist, the Bechstein has a warm and voluminous voice that “sounds like something from a world that vanished long ago”.

Foto © Birgitta Kowsky, KFR Wohlr

András Schiff plays Beethoven

András Schiff plays Beethoven

It’s amazing how modern a Bechstein grand piano made in 1921 can sound in direct comparison with a fortepiano made by Franz Brodmann around 1820. András Schiff demonstrates as much very forcefully: in 2012, he recorded Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on both instruments for the ECM label.

Schiff said it was “simply a pleasure to be able to play on two different beautiful instruments. However, the listening habits of audiences and music critics alike are still fairly one-sided. They’re dominated by prejudices; there’s no curiosity.” Schiff purposely chose a Bechstein piano and an instrument from Beethoven’s day.“The 1921 Bechstein represents a world long forgotten. Wilhelm Backhaus played it often, and used it on recordings. And we may recall that Bechstein was Arthur Schnabel’s preferred brand. Schnabel’s piano tone – especially playing Beethoven and Schubert – has always been my model. The Bechstein piano helps me come closer to that ideal.”

These outstanding recordings explain why Schiff’s Beethoven interpretations have achieved a similar status today to those of Backhaus and Schnabel. And as an encore, Schiff rounds out this total work of art with Beethoven’s last Sonata, op. 111, on the Bechstein, and the Bagatelles, op. 126, on the Brodmann.