Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
- András Schiff explains Bach
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French
Running time: 134 mins (performance) + 34 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 2
French Suites Nos. 1–6.
Overture in the French Style.
András Schiff (pn)
EUROARTS 2058138 (2 DVDs: 168:00) Live: Leipzig 2010
András Schiff has, for the entirety of his career, performed Bach’s music. In the current recital, filmed as part of the Bachfest 2010, Schiff performs all of Bach’s “French” music, that is, the so-called French Suites and the
; for his generous encore, he completes the
II with the entirety of the
. Surprisingly, he presents the suites in numerical order, admitting on the second DVD that this is a bit awkward in recital as the first three suites are all in minor keys, the last three all in major. He also points out the fact that Bach certainly did not intend for these suites to be performed one after another in concert. For the home viewer, this is obviously not an issue as it is easy enough to jump from one spot on the DVD to another; nonetheless it is surprising that Schiff programmed the pieces in this order, when just a couple of years ago he arranged the six Partitas by ascending tonics, staggering major and minor tonalities (G Major, A Minor, B?-Major, C Minor, D Major, E Minor) because he felt this worked far better as a modern concert program than Bach’s original numerical ordering. Were Schiff less persuasive of an artist than he is, this would be detrimental to the enjoyment of the recital.
Thankfully, I find his Bach even more enjoyable now than when he recorded the complete (or almost complete) works for Decca around two decades ago. The DVD is especially enjoyable to watch, as Schiff is a very non-eccentric player. His tempi are usually spot-on—never too fast in the courantes, nor, more importantly, too slow in the sarabandes. He maintains a sense of momentum through his subtle dynamic shading and his carefully placed accents. All of the repeats are taken, with each of them ornamented, though never so much as to get in the way of Schiff’s wonderful ability to clarify textures. The
is especially enjoyable to watch, as the piece is a bit weightier than any of the French Suites; in a sense, the entire recital leads up to this point. Though there are moments in the recital about which one can nitpick—for me the tempi of the fugal section of the opening movement of the
and the concluding Presto of the
are just a tad too slow for my taste—overall, this is music-making that is not just enjoyable but exalted in its best moments.
The second DVD, titled
András Schiff Explains Bach
, more closely resembles “András Schiff casually talks about his experiences with Bach.” This “explanatory” DVD, while interesting to those who are already fans of Schiff, or who would like to know what his voice sounds like—though be forewarned that he speaks in German for the entire half hour—is less interesting than an interview might have been. As a bonus, it is inessential, and I find that two run-throughs are more than enough, possibly for the rest of my encounters with this set. From a visual perspective, these performances make an especially enjoyable experience. The non-fussy attitude taken by the cameramen make it seem that for most of this recital one had the best seat in the house; for those of us who were not able to fly to Germany for this recital, this makes one feel especially fortunate. All in all, a most welcome release from one of the more interesting Bach interpreters of our time. As Schiff has been around for many years, he has his fans and he has his detractors. If one likes Schiff’s playing, this is essential. If one does not, I can only say, judge each performance individually: Schiff’s playing has only gotten better with the years.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
Works on This Recording
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
András Schiff (Piano)
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany
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