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This is a critic of The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival by András Schiff (pianist) held on April 6, 2013. The Bach Variations concert took place at the New York Philharmonic’s Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. Bach composed the keyboard concertos for the harpsichord, but Schiff played the same on a modern piano. In fact, the play at the Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor and No. 3 in D major enthralled the listeners.
Critics and audience have known Schiff from the 20th century as one of the most successful pianists of the century (Swed 1). Schiff has become a promoter for playing Bach’s keyboard music by using the current grand piano. He has remained the most illuminating and moving piano player of the time.
The Critique of The Bach Variations
Schiff showed the impression of an experienced musician as he turned the concert into an impeccable performance of the night. He entered the well-lit stage and took his place at the piano methodically. The hall dimmed as the light turned on the artist. Schiff’s performance reflected the pristine articulation with variations in rhythms. Watching Schiff play, the audience could not realize that he was relying on the works of Bach’s harpsichord (Tommasini 1).
In the past years, Schiff has emerged has the leading Bach interpreter of his time. Schiff’s Bach festival expressed an accomplished pianist, who could perform in a cantabile manner throughout the concert. The dominance of the lyricism was also evident in Schiff’s concert, which was nuance and flexible to the end. Schiff was powerful and virtuosic as the concert demanded because he managed all the variations perfectly. He relied on the melodic and quality of the concert rather than the normal pristine approach of the Bach’s counterpoint.
Schiff had a way of controlling movements of his hands in a fashion that placed the left hand ahead of the right one. He played with a clearly defined outline so well at the piano. The concert remained heavy-handed to the end. Schiff preferred loud variations and edgy attacks. This created inflated Bach Variations that attracted the audience’s attention.
Schiff has a high standard of concentration. For instance, he had his foot firmly on the floor and rarely used the pedal. However, he used the pedal at the end of the A Minor fugue. This variation ended with a prolonged bass. During the time of Bach, clavier referred to any keyboard instrument in the artist’s hand. Schiff proved that the fugue was for the piano organ. The instrumentation of the solo keyboard Schiff performed on the piano enhanced the elegance of the concert.
Schiff made an excellent use of the piano in the performance. For instance, the audience could observe the slow movement during the Largo of the Concerto in the F minor. At this point, Schiff graced the performance with smooth melody and lyricism. In addition, Schiff introduced conjuring in the melodies while he struck the keys at the piano. Schiff created a concert that sustained notes in the tunes in a persistent manner over the subtle music that accompanied the Philharmonic strings coupled with the supple play of uninterrupted bass notes that supported the melody.
The elongated counterpoint of the fugues demanded the entire attention of the audience in order to understand the Bach’s logic and emotions in the pieces. In this regard, Schiff turned the piano into a tool of accomplishing a great piece of a concert. The approach made the audience not to miss the elegance tone of the performer. At the same time, listeners also felt a strong sense of transcending with the instrument because the piano was superior to those of Bach’s time in which any instrument at hand was important.
Earlier settings of Bach concerts had violin at the Keyboard Concerto in the D major. Consequently, Schiff had managed to transform the Concerto into E major (BWV 1042) in order to create a prominent performance of the modern time. Scholars have looked at such concertos in relations to Bach’s solo violin, which have the A minor and E major and concluded that Bach changed them to G minor Keyboard Concerto.
Schiff’s performance created a dramatic unit. He achieved unity in the performance by eliminating some elements at the end of a piece in order to introduce a new prelude. However, Schiff managed to let the final major chord to end delicately and maintained a sensational minor as he approached the next chapter. This created a sense of unity in the concert performance. Some scholars believe that this is a concept far beyond Bach’s performance.
Schiff managed to control the rhythm of the Allegro during the opening movement. The act of controlling the rhythm gave the music a robust vigor as Schiff developed elements of the demanding contrapuntal lines. Schiff and his team of string players displayed enthusiasm during the performance of Allegro.
He emerged as a conductor in the Philharmonic concert. Schiff guided the Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 9 on C. This composition has varied tunes in the middle of the performance. Schiff focused on enhancing the elegance and intricacy of the performance. Schiff displayed a superb performance throughout the concert. In fact, he performed Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D minor without a baton. Schiff seemed to perform the Symphony from his memory by relying on his hands as a way of facilitating the vibrant performance. The Philharmonic performers were delighted with their performance throughout the night.
Schiff played Schumann’s piano music with energy to show that he had mastered the music from its writers and could comfortably introduce new elements with a great synergy. The music looked complex due to grandiose touches, but it remained intimate with the performers, as well as the audience. The performance reflected the analytical nature of Schiff.
Schiff’s performance reflected the art of seeking and deriving pleasure from music. He excelled in piano, but managed to maintain a smooth tone throughout the music. At the same time, the audience could observe physical delight in performers as the music elevated emotions of listeners. Schiff ended the performance in a firm style as he approached the chromatic prelude.
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At some points, Schiff displayed a sense of fast changes in variation 25. These instances of haste were mere disappointments in such a superb concert. Such minor niggles could not derail the perfect display of the musician.
The audience did not fail to recognize the amazing sleeve notes from Schiff. Schiff approached the concert like a player with the intention of creating live and excellent performance. The manner in which Schiff used the piano remained inauthentic and advanced to most viewers. This is where Schiff overtook Bach, who used harpsichord and could not stand long hours of playing the harpsichord with the audience listening. However, Schiff proved that he was a master at the piano as time soon elapsed.
The concert was an inspiring experience as Schiff demonstrated his piano prowess. The audience could observe a deep connection between Schiff and the music. The performance remained wonderful and lively in the entire concert. This performance of The Bach Variations was a benchmark for the year. However, it is important for the audience to have the physical form of the music in order to understand the movement of the performance.
The performance confirmed what other critics have noted about Schiff as an outstanding interpreter. These critics know that Schiff is an excellent performer, who has the ability to transcend the piano and still show that he is not shy to show and express his true filling for Bach. Schiff creates a sense of admiration in Bach because he indulges in it as his own creation. We must also recognize Schiff’s stylistic choices, particularly with regard to the piano in which he displays a great sense of commitment. Such a profound sense of commitment to a performance shows Schiff as an accomplished artist. A keen observer could recognize that the concerts categorically belonged to the harpsichord, but Schiff managed to set their resonance by using the modern piano. In fact, some of these musical forms are easily portable because they look like essays in the form of counterpoint. Schiff has managed to create The Bach Variations by using a modern piano effortlessly.
Swed, Mark. Review: Andras Schiff plays Bach preludes, fugues masterfully. 2012. Web.
Tommasini, Anthony. Conjuring as Well as Conducting. 2013. Web.