András Schiff

Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1 - Opp. 2 & 7

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For too long, too many people have underestimated András Schiff. Decca, his first Western record company, presented him as a Mozart/Schubert specialist whose Bach was the soft-focus alternative to Glenn Gould. Teldec, his second Western record company, presented him as a Brahms/Reger specialist whose Busoni was the modernist equivalent of Bach. At last, ECM, his third Western record company, grants him his due, understanding that András Schiff is certainly one of the finest classical pianists of his generation by releasing this, the first volume in a planned complete cycle of all Beethoven's piano sonatas. Based on the evidence of these performances, Mozart, Schubert, and Brahms to one side, it is clear that Schiff is a Beethoven specialist, a pianist with commanding technique and expressive intensity, but above all great heart. Schiff is always himself, with his big, singing tone and complete control of form, and these are highly individualistic interpretations, yet Schiff is never more fully himself than when he is subsumed into the soul of the music. In the Largo con gran espressione of Op. 7, Schiff's molding of phrases and shaping of paragraphs is at once wholly his and at the same time consumed in the inspiration of the music. This is Beethoven playing of temperament, taste, and, most importantly, transcendence. Recorded in the Tonhalle Zurich, ECM has ideally captured Schiff's performance in an amazing facsimile of aural reality.

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