Andras Schiff on Bach, Beethoven & Bartok

By Erik Petersons on May 6, 2012
Andras Schiff

Andras Schiff has been very thoughtful about developing the program he will present on Tuesday to highlight the connections between Bach and Bartok - two composers he admired greatly.  He revealed the deep personal significance of this program prior to the same recital he gave this past Wednesday in New York.

This is a very special program, indeed, and I’ve never done one like it….It consists entirely of short pieces. There are two main lines hidden in it: the Bach Inventions and the various Bartók pieces. Both Bach and Bartok thought a lot about the musical education of children, even of their own children. Bartok’s Gyermekeknek (For Children) and Mikrokosmos collections follow Bach’s model; Bach clearly writes in his preface to the collection what he wanted to achieve: inventions, ideas, imagination,fantasy, the art of playing in “cantabile” style, and good taste in composition.

As Bach progresses through the two-part inventions and three-part sinfonias, Bartok also advances from simpler to more complicated pieces in his wonderful series. Both composers have given great music to children, who can now learn the art of keyboard playing without having to play bad music. The program ends with Bartok’s Out of Doors Suite–one of his masterpieces, especially the fourth work, “The Night’s Music.”

In addition to the emphasis on Back and Bartók, Schiff has included a few other select works to round out the program.  His thoughts on Kurtág, Jorg Widmann and Beethoven:

…the [three] pieces I’m playing [by Kurtág] are deeply tragic and sad, quasi requiems for friends who have recently passed away. Haydée Charbagi was a Tunisian musicologist and literary scholar who died in Paris at the age of 28. Kálmán Strém was the best concert promoter and impresario in Hungary. I knew him very well; he died in 2007 in his mid-70s.

Widmann is a very talented composer of the younger generation. I wanted to include him here and asked him to write something that would go well with the rest of this program.

The Beethoven Op. 126 Bagatelles are essential music–his final thoughts on the piano.