“I had goosebumps”: Review of Sir Andras Schiff’s piano performance at the PAC

By Michael Giles, Guest Reviewer

From one of the most classically polished backgrounds, I was able to attend one of the most incredibly performed piano concert at Soka’s Performing Arts Center. Sir Andras Schiff is a 65-year-old Hungarian who speaks with a thick accent, and was trained in classical piano in Britain. He has won many awards for his numerous passionate performances. Like many classical pianists, Schiff possesses a deep love for the music of the late Robert Schumann. The passion and creativity written in Schumann’s music can only be recreated beautifully by those with a special gift, one that Schiff has appropriately earned.

His performance on Sunday, February 24, 2019, included music by Leos Janacek and Robert Schumann. The first half of his performance were songs from An Overgrown Path Book 1 by Leos Janacek. The songs played from this book were a mixture of both mysteriously haunting tunes and unusual tunes that expressed human emotion. According to the program, Janacek’s work is often described as having an intimate quality that sought catharsis or having an overabundance of happy and sad experiences. Though the music from An Overgrown Path Book 1 was not originally made for piano, Schiff does a very beautiful job of expressing the feelings and emotions Janacek wanted to convey to his audience. As I listened I could not help but adore all of the movements of dissonance in his music, though it was oddly uncomfortable—it left me wanting more as a listener. Most of the songs played in the first half of the show start off with a soft haunting tune that is interrupted by a change in melody following a stronger amplitude. I found this to be very engaging as a listener, and it kept me on my toes.

Another thing I adored during this first half was the aesthetically pleasing mixture of the polyphonic textures. I found that as Schiff was performing there was not one melody that overthrew the other; each melody was noticeable at the same time and beautifully tied together. This first half of his performance was incredibly moving. I had goosebumps and an overwhelming feeling of happiness overcame me. I couldn’t help but smile during his performance.

After the Intermission, Schiff performed two tremendously beautiful sonatas by Leos Janacek and Robert Schumann. Though both were beautifully performed the one that struck me the most was his Schumann performance. Before playing these sonatas, he told the audience that he enjoyed playing Schumann’s music because he felt that they were a product of a very disturbed mind. The performance that Schiff gave presented a very manic-depressive tone because of the extremes of the dynamics in his music. The performance was chaotic yet powerful because it reflected the troubled mind of Robert Schumann. I was utterly amazed by the intense chromatic sounds in his performance. I felt like the variety of melodies were played very purposefully and passionately to express the manic phase Schumann’s mind was stuck in.

Overall, I enjoyed this show put on at the Soka Performing Arts Center by Sir Andras Schiff. I fell in love with his piano music. Growing up I went to many piano recitals because my sister played for five years, but none of them compared to how well Schiff performed at this concert. One of the things that made this performance so beautiful was how in tune his performance was while playing passionate sounds. You could tell how professionally trained he was by his ability to never to miss an opportunity to emphasize a change of sound with a dramatic lift of his arms and change in facial expression.

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