The more I watch András Schiff as a pianist and a
lecturer/commentator, the more I admire him. A while ago,
I was able to see “András Schiff Plays and Conducts
Mozart,” and I can now extend my praise to his abilities
as a conductor as well! The reasons for my exuberance
were confirmed while watching a 2007 DVD of him
participating in the International Musician’s Seminar
at Prussia Cove. As another part of the Masterclass
Media Foundation series, Schiff coached pianist
Cornelia Hermann, providing criticism while she
prepared three of Franz Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux.”
Schiff (1953 – ) felt deeply about these pianistic gems
from Schubert’s last year and I found his effective
expression of his ideas, verbally and at the piano, to be
most insightful and valuable. Ms. Hermann played these
pieces quite well, but you wouldn’t know it after Schiff
noted the nuances and subtleties that he felt warranted
improvement. He would punctuate his observations by
illustrating his points at the keyboard, which was a real
treat. Schiff is intimately acquainted with Schubert’s music,
and his knowledge is not limited to the composer’s piano
works. Often, he referenced Schubert’s song cycles, such
as “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise,” and even
went so far as to sing relevant excerpts.
As he did with his DVD on the “Partitas” by Johann
Sebastian Bach from this series, Schiff sometimes used
extra-musical references, such as a horn call or a bird call,
to evoke what he felt Schubert was trying to convey.
He states that although the “Moments Musicaux” are
short pieces, a lot of drama is within each one of them.
Schiff also reiterated the need to adjust the pianist’s touch,
to suit the acoustics of the performance venue. He reminded
us that the modern grand piano is considerably more
powerful than the instruments used during Schubert’s lifetime;
hence in this case, the bass line required a lighter touch,
and it was often necessary for the pianist to vary the
degree of weight on the keys between both hands.
I’d say that Cornelia Hermann got her money’s worth
with this masterclass!