Stories » Sleepless nights with Andras Schiff and Beethoven / The New Yorker

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Sleepless nights with Andras Schiff and Beethoven / The New Yorker

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In the mid-two-thousands, when Schiff performed the full cycle of sonatas at Wigmore Hall, in London, each of his eight concerts was preceded by a separate lecture-recital, in which he explored and reflected on the works more deeply before his audience (Wigmore Hall has since posted the lecture-recitals on its Web site). As Schiff opened the first evening of his lectures, which covered sonatas one through four, he advised that, ideally, music should be experienced directly-not picked apart or overanalyzed. Talking about music, he added, qualifying his own endeavor, is "really not my métier." Still, since Alfred Brendel's retirement, a decade ago, Schiff has arguably become the éminence grise of Beethoven piano performance. (Murray Perahia and Daniel Barenboim, both in their seventies, are close contenders.) So, métier or not, Schiff's attempt to "put a few ideas into words," as he phrases it, is well worth a listen-even for those who know the sonatas backward and forward.

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