Among a slew of remarkable moments at Friday’s recital by András Schiff, the most remarkable may have come at the end. Schiff had just delivered insightful and gripping accounts of the final piano sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert — a marathon performance lasting nearly two and a half hours. Yet the Hungarian-born pianist returned to the stage as though he’d merely warmed up, and played not one but two encores. Stamina, thy name is Schiff.
The concert’s epic nature lay not just in the temporal but spiritual challenges of exploring these “late works,” a genre to which we reflexively apply a special, rarefied character that doesn’t always fit.
This is an interesting concept for a concert. There are certainly similarities between the Haydn and Mozart sonatas, as there are between the Schubert and Beethoven. I would love to hear a concert like this. Schiff has played several times in recent years in Birmingham, which is about an hour from where I live, and I heard him play the Goldberg Variations last year. Perhaps he’ll come this way again soon and play this program. (He’s not scheduled for the coming season; however both Murray Perahia and Mitsuki Uchida are, and I’ve got tickets to hear both of them.)
In the meantime, you could make a playlist of all these works, either from your collection, or from a streaming service. I only have recordings of Schiff playing the Schubert and Beethoven, not the others, but substitute your favorite pianist if you wish.