Photo: Chris Lee
As a few faithful readers have noted my lack of comment on some recent performances around town that were listed in the calendar section. This is partly due to my adherence to that old adage about what to do if you have nothing nice to say, but it is also simply due to scheduling conflicts. I do want to say a little bit about András Schiff, however. Mr. Schiff appeared twice at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the last two weeks on a touring supporting his ECM recordings of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. The shows on October the 10th and 17th here in LA (that alternated with two identical shows in San Francisco) featured the first eight sonatas and he will return for two more performances this season and another four next season to complete the cycle.
Probably the most notable thing about last Wednesday’s show was that Mr. Schiff completed the program without leaving the stage in the middle of a piece. He notoriously walked out of a solo recital of Mozart sonatas last year when frustrated by audience noise in the acoustically hypersensitive WDCH. Frankly, I was surprised when the LA Phil announced he would make eight more solo appearances over the next two years after that event, but here he was back on the 10th for the first of the Beethoven programs which, lo and behold, was interrupted by a “medical emergency” in the audience that brought everything to a halt mid-sonata leaving Mr. Schiff with the only option of taking a break while EMT folks resolved the situation. Of course, that was all the excuse I needed to leave. I made no comment at the time feeling that although the part of that program I did hear seemed stiff I would wait to see what happened next week.
Now of course it’s hard to appreciate something when there is an air of tension around it, but I have to say that while Mr. Schiff’s approach to these works is intellectually rigorous and technically remarkable, I felt little connection to anything. His playing is about as fussy as you can imagine and so didactic in execution that the air seems to drain out of the room. And just in case you didn’t get the point, he finished both programs with excessively lengthy encores – in this case, an entire Bach keyboard partita with repeats.
In some ways it seems Mr. Schiff’s timing is off all the way around. He is releasing a major set of Beethoven sonatas at a time when the market is flooded with high quality new recordings of the same works from the likes of Angela Hewitt and Paul Lewis to name just two. Furthermore, his non-user friendly approach swims against much of what is currently popular. Not that that is always a bad thing. Think of it this way – Andras Schiff may well be the anti-Lang Lang – prickly and uningratiating. And while I would agree that no one should aspire to be anything like Mr. Lang, I think there is a middle ground somewhere.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 07/08