Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat, K271
Symphony No.98 in B flat
Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor, K491
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
András Schiff (fortepiano)
Reviewed by: Graham Rogers
Reviewed: 25 February, 2013
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
What a treat: two of Mozart’s greatest piano concertos in superb performances by one of their supreme exponents with one of the world’s finest 18th-century-repertoire orchestras playing on instruments of Mozart’s time finely balanced and played with panache and style.
András Schiff demonstrated that he is utterly at home with the fortepiano, making the instrument sing with an eloquence few can match – supremely fluid in the upper register, with wonderfully distinct bass notes. Sat at the keyboard in the centre of the orchestra, facing the audience at an angle, Schiff’s modest, gentle and genial personality radiated out. With minimal gestures, he was also uncompromisingly firm and precise in his direction (often standing in the orchestral tutti sections).
For K271, Schiff’s was not a performance of a young firebrand, as we imagine the 21-year-old composer to have been when he wrote and played it; this was a deeply considered, passionate and consummate account. There was no hell-for-leather abandon in the outer movements, but no shortage of sincere and joyous ebullience. The sorrow-laden Andantino shone with operatic intensity, Schiff conjuring moments of breathtakingly hushed tranquillity. There was magical softness too in the artless Larghetto of K491, which flowed with unaffected simplicity, and Schiff incisively manifested the atmosphere of restrained turbulence of this darkly brooding concerto’s outer movements. This was Mozart playing of the very highest order.
In between the concertos, Schiff conducted a boldly etched and idiomatic account of one of Haydn’s most serious ‘late’ symphonies – No.98. Written for Haydn’s second London visit in 1792, it is sadly a rarity in the concert hall today, probably because the impish finale features a small but crucial keyboard solo – originally a cheeky cameo appearance for the composer. Fortunately, with a piano already on the platform and Schiff ready to slip onto the stool at the required moment, a delightful conclusion was ensured.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for seven days afterwards)
- Southbank Centre