András Schiff, Piano

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Biography

András Schiff was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1953 and started piano lessons at the age of five with Elisabeth Vadász. Subsequently he continued his musical studies at the Ferenc Liszt Academy with Professor Pál Kadosa, György Kurtág and Ferenc Rados, and in London with George Malcolm.

Recitals and special cycles, including the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók form an important part of his activities. Since 2004 he has performed complete cycles of the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas in 20 cities, and the cycle in the Zurich Tonhalle was recorded live.

His latest disc with ECM Records released in April 2015 features the late piano works of Franz Schubert recorded on a 1820 Viennese fortepiano made by Franz Brodmann and was recently awarded the International Classical Music Award for best “Solo Instrumental Recording of the Year”. This is the second time András Schiff has received this award. The first was in 2012 for his recording “Geistervariationen” with works by Robert Schumann (ECM).

András Schiff has worked with most of the major international orchestras and conductors, but nowadays he performs mainly as a conductor and soloist. In 1999 he created his own chamber orchestra, the Cappella Andrea Barca, which consists of international soloists, chamber musicians and friends. In addition to working annually with this Orchestra, he also works with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Since childhood he has enjoyed playing chamber music and from 1989 until 1998 was Artistic Director of the internationally highly praised "Musiktage Mondsee" chamber music festival near Salzburg. In 1995, together with Heinz Holliger, he founded the "Ittinger Pfingstkonzerte" in Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland. In 1998 Mr Schiff started a similar series, entitled "Hommage to Palladio" at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.

András Schiff has been awarded numerous international prizes. In 2006 he became an Honorary Member of the Beethoven House in Bonn in recognition of his interpretations of Beethoven’s works; in 2008 he was awarded the Wigmore Hall Medal in appreciation of 30 years of music-making at Wigmore Hall; in 2009 he was made a Special Supernumerary Fellow of Balliol College (Oxford, UK); in 2011 he received the Schumann Prize awarded by the city of Zwickau; in 2012 he received the Golden Mozart-Medaille by the International Stiftung Mozarteum, the Order pour le mérite for Sciences and Arts, the Grosse Verdienstkreuz mit Stern der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, and was made a Member of Honour of Vienna Konzerthaus; in December 2013 he was given The Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal; in July 2014 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music honoris causa by the University of Leeds.

In the spring of 2011 Mr Schiff attracted attention because of his opposition to the alarming political development in Hungary and in view of the ensuing attacks on him from some Hungarian Nationalists, decided not to perform again in his home country.

In June 2014 he was bestowed a Knighthood for services to Music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

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Repertoire
Review
Top Marks For an Ingenious Bach Recording
Politiken
Tue, 2009-10-27
'When does a CD deserve six hearts? Given in pure admiration without reservations? One suggestion could be: When the interpreter gilts the present and cancels out all contradictions. When clarity, warmth, play and perspective form a higher unity, so the angels for a moment leave their trumpets in order to enjoy the music. András Schiff's new Bach recording is up there. There is sweetness in the approach. A small smile, which often is replaced by an intense gesture without removing focus from the music.'
To Heaven
Berlingske Tidende
Fri, 2009-10-30
András Schiff surpasses himself and everybody else: His recording of Bach's partitas is one of this year's best recordings. He not only plays superbly. The now 55 year old viruoso with hair á la Art Garfunkel plays better than ever'. ...'One can hear these slightly complicated pearling rows of tones for days on end and still discover something new. And one can emphasize something special in almost every one of the 41 pieces. Take only the opening of Partita no. 4: It is pompous like the sun king in stilletos. And it is astoundingly full of colours and contrasts and captivating drama. This is how J.S. Bach is transformed from a horisontal engine to vertical lightning between heaven and earth'.
The Concert of the Year
Göteborgs-Posten
Fri, 2011-04-15
It was the concert of the year, if you ask me. The Hungarian pianist András Schiff, one of the best piano virtuosos of our time performed an exceptionally rich programme: Five pieces of variations by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Haydn and Schumann, topped with Beethoven's exceptionally difficult Diabelli Variations. It is rare to hear such a consistently performed and challenging programme, at least in our part of the world. But then András Schiff is an exceptionally knowledgeable and boundary seeking musician, which he has proved with his recent recording of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, surprisingly free and improvising in expression. It is as though the music is released of its majestic weight without losing the revolutionary heart. In the first half of the concert Schiff does a glittering performance of Mendelssohn's Variations Sérieuses and Schumann's Theme and Variations, the latter is a series of peculiarly introvert and soaring sound improvisations composed immediately before the composer's mental breakdown in 1854. Schiff brings forward the possibilities of experiment which the variations offer, but also the classicism and concentration of the musical form. There is knife sharp precision in the details but also freedom in the rhythm. It belongs to Schiff's mastery and puts him above other pianists that he succeeds in showing the streams of energy in the music and bring the long lines forward. This is abundantly clear in the Diabelli Variations. He manifests the metaphysical magic with brick laid on brick, and suddenly one hears how the future is present, from Chopin and Liszt to Debussy and Schönberg. Why, even Jerry Lee Lewis shimmers by in a passage with a strangely throbbing right hand. But an entire concert with an infinite number of variations built on simple themes, is it not boring? No, not in the least. The world appears clear and manifold with its lightness in the powerful and weightlessness in the profound. Magnus Haglund
Rolling and precise piano interpretations
Göteborgsposten
Mon, 2013-02-11
The Hungarian András Schiff is a pianist of the old school. A full-fledged virtuoso but also a creating musician - like an experienced improviser he lets the playing be created in the moment. The music by Beethoven and Schumann becomes genuinely exciting. The phrases live and change in a fascinating and unpredictable way during the playing. A good example is the way the intrusive energies in Beethoven's Piano Sonata i d-minor (op.31, no. 2) draws their force from the silence of the initial broken cord. By every time they return, with different colours and sound formations, the silence thickens. Schiff performs the sonata as if it consisted of only one arc, from the beginning to the end. It is very impressive. The concert programme is created intricately, with two Beethoven sonatas (apart from the Piano Sonata i d-minor also Waldstein) set against Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze and Kreisleriana. The virtuoso playing sounds a bit fantasy-like, in the spirit of the Beethoven admirer ETA. Hoffmann, whose horror stories and romantic aestetics was the base of Schumann's suite about the conductor Kreisler. This is how one enters the rolling and precise interpretations of Schiff. Everything is clear and sharp and at the same time the fever visions are present as are the bizarre twists when the playing goes faster and faster until it suddenly becomes "folk song" mild, fragilely listening. Every second is loaded to the breaking point. By: Magnus Haglund
Press Service

Photo: Peter Fischli

Photo: Birgitta Kowsky

Photo: Birgitta Kowsky

Photo: Sheila Rock

Photo: Birgitta Kowsky

Photo: Priska Ketterer, Lucerne

Photo: Priska Ketterer, Lucerne

Photo: Priska Ketterer, Lucerne

Representation:
DK, NO, SE