Sold out way in advance of the event, this was a glorious recital of some wonderful music – cemented by amusing, compelling and charming commentary.
With no programme available before – or at – the event, we were reliant on Sir András introducing each item; and he enchanted the audience with his warmth and humour – including the many who could only stand in the gallery. He described the programme better than any printed text: “nothing but great music.”
We opened with J. S. Bach – apparently, how Schiff begins each of his days … even before breakfast! The Capriccio is a series of short movements, and we had each of these explained beforehand, as the brothers adjusted to the farewell involved. The exposition was enthralling – and helped us appreciate the music the more, when we got to the points described – this was especially the case with the humorous horse motif.
Moving on a few decades, we heard Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’, from three years before he died. The king had given him a theme on which to improvise – and thus we heard one of the resulting ricercars (in this case a three-part fugue), followed by Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor (described to us as like Don Giovanni in 10 minutes!). The link between the two pieces was obvious as soon as we heard them, the tune being so similar.
Haydn was described to us as maybe the “most underrated of the great composers”. And so, to compensate, we heard two of his works: the F minor Variations are arguably the greatest such set to come from the later 18th century, and the 62nd sonata would prove to be Haydn’s last.
By this point, we had already reached the hour and three quarters allocated for whole recital, and we had only got to the Interval. This led to many people having to use that time to rejig their lunch arrangements. However, it was a much shorter second half, and the Beethoven in particular was clearly eagerly awaited as soon as it was announced. As Schiff told us himself, “you are getting good value for your money”.
The performance finished at 1.25pm.
Sir András Schiff, Friday 11th August, 11.00am, Queen’s Hall