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Andras Schiff Turns Mischievous at Carnegie Hall / New York Times

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What was Andras Schiff, the eminent Budapest-born pianist, up to when he sat down to begin a recital program, the first of two, at Carnegie Hall this week? A part-time London resident who was knighted last year by Queen Elizabeth II, Mr. Schiff commands international respect as a paragon of refinement and musical integrity. Yet, on this night, as he settled into recital mode, was that a glint of mischief I caught in his eyes?

The piece he was about to perform was Haydn's Sonata in C, No. 50 in the standard catalog, among the composer's last sonatas. The sportive Allegro first movement begins with the right hand playing the theme: just the descending, detached tones of a plain old C major chord, sort of plunk, plunk, plunk. And so on. As he readied himself to play, Mr. Schiff curled his right hand so that only his index finger stuck out, as if he was about to point to a key, not play one. Then, using only that finger, he plunked out those first notes, just like Chico in a Marx Brothers film.

Mr. Schiff's way with this passage, though seemingly mischievous, was actually revealing of his artistic depth. These two programs, on Tuesday and Thursday, could not have been more substantive. For "Sir Andras Schiff, Piano," Mr. Schiff had chosen eight sonatas, two each by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, among the last sonatas written by these masters of the Viennese Classical era. So the audience that packed the hall both nights expected a typical journey into the sublime with Sir Andras.  READ THE FULL New York Times REVIEW