Classical Review: Brahms' Variation on a Theme by Haydn

Andras Schiff seemed to play the orchestra just as though he were playing the piano.

May 25, 2013 23:04
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra 521. (photo credit: Yeugene/WikiCommons)

In his dual capacity as conductor- pianist, Andras Schiff proved that an extraordinary instrumentalist can, exceptionally, be also an outstanding conductor, in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s matinee concert last week.

In Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Schiff seemed to play the orchestra just as though he were playing the piano. Subtle unpredictable nuances of dynamics were abundant. Delicate, almost imperceptible rubato changes of tempi infused breathing life into the rendition, and clear-cut articulation contributed plasticity. In particular, the last variation’s passacaglia- like bass line often overshadowed by the boisterous orchestral din, was clearly audible throughout, adding emphasis to the final climax.

Beethoven’s frequently performed “Emperor” Concerto sounded fresh and spontaneous as though heard for the first time – a formidable artistic achievement. The performance was an impressive combination of emotional sensibility and intellectual control.

Melodic highpoints were accentuated significantly, and only the gradual build-up of the transition from the slow movement was rushed headlong into the Rondo, missing the final climactic outburst just by hairbreadth.

Moderator Prof. Moshe Zuckermann attempted to point out the common denominators, if any, between Beethoven and Brahms.

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