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Mozart: Symphony No 35, Piano Concerto No 20 / Schiff

Mozart / Bach,J.s. / Schiff / Barca
Release Date: 02/24/2009 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2057268  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  András Schiff
Conductor:  András Schiff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Andrea Barca
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20. Symphony No. 35, “Haffner.” Don Giovanni: Overture. BACH Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue & András Schiff (pn, cond); Capella Andrea Barca MEDICI ARTS 2057268 (DVD 90:00) Live: Vicenza 2008

& András Schiff in conversation

Although most videos of concert works have often struck me as distracting from the music at hand, this one proves one of the most fascinating and attractive that I have encountered. For one thing, Schiff on the podium is as intelligent and sensitive as he is at the piano. His gestures are economical and pointed, sometimes made with the eyes rather than with the baton. The camerawork is generally intelligent, albeit with perhaps too much panning of this superb chamber ensemble. Of course it is interesting to have the eye confirm what the ear detects—specifically that the strings play with minimal or (often) no vibrato. Then, too, other period practices are applied. The ensemble is small, supported by but two double basses. Textures throughout are remarkably clear. And one camera angle is striking, shot as it is from directly over the pianist so that a clear view of both his hands reveals (as no other video I have seen does), the extraordinarily disciplined dexterity and complexity of movement that those hands must maintain.

Complementing the visual virtues is Schiff’s superb musicianship as both soloist and conductor. The “Haffner” is impressive. In the spirit of period practices, Schiff over-dots the opening of the second movement. Throughout, textures are sharply delineated, a tribute to the excellent sound as well as to his ear for balances. He also observes both repeats in the second movement. The first one (of the exposition) is certainly welcome, but some may feel the second one (development and recapitulation) is unnecessary. In the third movement, he does not add gratuitous repeats after its Trio, and he follows the 1968 facsimile of the autograph, omitting the little bridge passage preceding the Trio and at the movement’s conclusion. Throughout, tempos are well judged, the unhurried opening movement aptly festive, the second movement never unduly distended, and the finale played just slowly enough to insure clean articulation. But Schiff imposes one peculiarity that will shock—a breath pause just before the coda, the one oddity in an impressive account.

The concerto is every bit as good, similar to Schiff’s recorded account of 1989, also favoring a chamber orchestra, but with Sándor Végh conducting. It should be noted that in prefacing the work with the Don Giovanni Overture, Schiff is trying to suggest the demonic quality they share, a point he underscores in the first movement’s cadenza, where (as in 1989) he favors Beethoven’s but, here, with a brief suggestion of the overture interpolated. It is a point well taken. And it is a superb performance throughout, controlled, never rushed in outer movements, yet tautly organized, and in the finale, appropriately suggesting a hint of manic intensity that Mozart, artist that he was, managed to control. The Bach work was an encore at this concert. Those familiar with Schiff’s Bach from his work for Decca, will know that, avoiding Glen Gould’s glibness in Bach, he projects the music with a textural clarity that its contrapuntal richness demands. In a 15-minute “Bonus” talk (for which English titles are provided) Schiff touches upon a number of interesting points, particularly one noting why he has no lid on his piano when performing Mozart concertos. In short, visually, musically, and sonically this is a superb release.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank

Recorded at the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

András Schiff in conversation

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 65 mins (concert) + 15 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 35 in D major, K 385 "Haffner" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  András Schiff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Andrea Barca
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Don Giovanni, K 527: Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  András Schiff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Andrea Barca
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague, Czech Republ 
Concerto for Piano no 20 in D minor, K 466 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Conductor:  András Schiff
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Andrea Barca
Period: Classical 
Written: 1785; Vienna, Austria 
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 

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