A Pianist Walks You Through Beethoven’s Masterpieces

posted by Tom Moon on March 12, 2009 at 12:11 pm
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The great Andras Schiff shares insights about Beethoven's works for piano.

There are lots of ways to develop an “ear” for a piece of music, and one of the best is to hear an artist talk about it. That’s particularly true when said artist has devoted considerable thought and energy to the material – as the pianist Andras Schiff has with Beethoven's herculean Piano Sonatas.

The Hungarian-born Schiff has recorded all 32 of them, no small feat. Several of his performances – the often-butchered “romantic favorite” “Appassionata” (No. 23, op. 57) and the “Hammerklavier” (No. 29, op. 106) – have been heralded as electrifying, not simply for the clean execution of demanding lines, but Schiff’s knack for illuminating Beethoven’s schemes and strategies, his compositional logic.

The Schiff recordings, for ECM New Series, are live recordings, most of them made at Tonhalle Zurich. They're presented in chronological order on single discs. Two particularly strong choices are Vol. VI (which comprises Nos. 22-26) and Vol. VII (which comprises Nos. 27-29, written between 1814-1822).

In conjunction with the 2008 release of some of the later sonata recordings, Schiff did a series of lectures that discuss the individual works and Beethoven’s evolution. Though his delivery isn’t as polished as a TV newscaster, Schiff communicates both knowledge and passion – it’s impossible not to learn something from him.

The lectures are free, and available at: http://guardian.co.uk/schiff.

  • Piano Concertos Nos. 1-5 - Ludwig van Beethoven / Rudolf Serkin, Chorus and Symphony of the Bavarian Radio (Rafael Kubelik, cond.) | Buy

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