This was to be the end of the line for Italian word-setting by Viennese composers: once the confident sentiments that belonged to the poet Metastasio's opera seria felt the chill and threatening wind of Enlightenment and Revolution, their time was up. Even we, for the most part, prefer to remember the German-speaking Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn. So it is good to be reminded of their responses to the Italian muse (usually as part of their craft-learning student work) in this particularly well-cast recital. Central Europe, in the person of Andras Schiff meets Italy, in Cecilia Bartoli, to delightful, often revelatory effect.
This is the most beautiful of Mozart playing, his last piano concerto given here by Emil Gilels with total clarity. This is a classic performance, memorably accompanied by the VPO and Böhm. Suffice it to say that Gilels sees everything and exaggerates nothing, that the performance has an Olympian authority and serenity, and that the Larghetto is one of the glories of the gramophone. He's joined by his daughter Elena in the Double Piano Concerto in E flat, and their physical relationship is mirrored in the quality, and the mutual understanding of the playing: both works receive marvellous interpretations. We think Emil plays first, Elena second, but could be quite wrong. The VPO under Karl Böhm is at its best; and so is the quality of recording, with a good stereo separation of the two solo parts, highly desirable in this work.
Extraordinary interpretations of Schubert's C major fantasies by András Schiff, alone (on the epochal 'Wanderer-Fantasie') and with violinist Yuuko Shiokawa on the under-acknowledged Fantasy for Violin and Piano D934. Schiff: 'Schubert has such modernity -perhaps his time has only arrived now. Composers of today - like Kurtág, Ligeti, Rihm and Zender - worship Schubert. He was one of the greatest composers ever.'
How poor the piano literature for four hands would be without Schubert! This musical form is indebted to him for its most significant enrichment — ranging from the popular marches to works of virtually symphonic size. The roots of the genre sprang from different soils. Schubert's musical invention was so prolific that often the two hands of a pianist proved to be insufficient, and thus the performance of complicated counterpoint, the countless subsidiary themes and delicate harmonic details demanded two pianists and four hands, resembling the four parts of a string quartet.
Sir András Schiff born 21 December 1953 is a Hungarian-born British classical pianist and conductor, who has received numerous major awards and honors, including the Grammy Award, Gramophone Award, Mozart Medal, and Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in her 2014 Birthday Honours for services to music.
András Schiffs reputation as one of the great interpreters of the work of Franz Schubert is long-established. He has always maintained that Schuberts music is amongst the most moving ever written. Schiff underlined the point on his ECM New Series album with the C Major fantasies at the end of the 1990s, and he does so again on this remarkable recording, on which two Schubert sonatas, the Musical Moments, four Impromptus (D 935), the Hungarian Melody and an Allegretto are addressed on a period instrument, the fortepiano.