To Sir András Schiff, there are no big differences in how he engages with audiences as conductor, piano soloist, and chamber player—all roles that feature in the virtuoso’s residence this month with the New York Philharmonic
“To me a piano concerto is also chamber music on a large scale, nowhere more than with Mozart,” he said. “We have to give and take. We must listen to one another.”
New York Philharmonic audiences will have the pleasure of listening along with the performers when Sir András joins the Orchestra both as conductor and as soloist, April 11–22, in the Wu Tsai Theater at David Geffen Hall during his visit as The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence.
This is far from Sir András’s NY Phil debut, as it follows almost 30 performances with the Orchestra, beginning in 1982. He looks back on that debut as “a marvelous experience and a privilege to have collaborated with Rafael Kubelík [who conducted the concerts]. We became great friends, and he and his wife, Elsie, were the witnesses when I married my wife, Yuuko Shiokawa.”
He recalls the experience vividly, including when he came to what was then called Avery Fisher Hall to try out a new piano, playing the final movement of Schubert’s D-major Sonata. To his surprise he found then Music Director Zubin Mehta and the entire Orchestra in the house—and also Sir Clifford Curzon, that week’s guest artist. He recalls: “After a few measures (and I know this from Zubin) Sir Clifford leaned over to him and whispered, ‘He knows my recording.’”
Schubert also plays a role in Sir András’s current appearances, when he conducts the Unfinished Symphony during the first week, as well as Mozart’s Don Giovanni Overture, and leads concertos by Haydn and Mozart from the keyboard.
The next week, April 20–22, Sir András plays Bartók’s Concerto No. 3, this time as soloist while Iván Fischer conducts. That week’s program includes Dohnányi’s Symphonic Minutes and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter. Sir Andras’s Philharmonic residency includes more than time with the Orchestra.
On April 11 he gives a solo recital in the Wu Tsai Theater. He is coy about the repertoire, which he plans to announce from the stage. But he is willing to say, “It will complement the orchestral concert and will probably feature the same composers — probably, but not certainly. Let’s be spontaneous!” He concludes
on April 23 in a collaboration with New York Philharmonic Principal players, performing works by J.S. Bach, Robert Schumann, Beethoven, and Dvořák in a chamber music concert held at, and co-presented with, The 92nd Street Y, New York.
Not surprisingly for a musician with his stellar background, Sir András Schiff takes his music very seriously. “Music is not entertainment,” he said. “By all means, the audience should be having a good time, but it should also be a learning experience. Something to think about and to enrich our soul."
Peter W. Goodman is an adjunct professor of journalism at the Lawrence Herbert School of Journalism, Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Before entering academia, Goodman was a writer, critic, and editor at Newsday and New York Newsday.