András Schiff performs the final solo recital of his Carnegie Hall Perspectives in Zankel Hall on May 2. Here, the pianist explains the deep personal significance of the "very special" program he has chosen to perform that night.
This is a very special program, indeed, and I’ve never done one like it. I constructed it especially for the Perspectives series and for Zankel Hall—it would never work in the big hall. It consists entirely of short pieces. There are two main lines hidden in it: the Bach Inventions and the various Bartók pieces. Both Bach and Bartók thought a lot about the musical education of children, even of their own children. Bartók’s Gyermekeknek (For Children) and Mikrokosmos collections follow Bach’s model; Bach clearly writes in his preface to the collection what he wanted to achieve: inventions, ideas, imagination,fantasy, the art of playing in “cantabile” style, and good taste in composition.
As Bach progresses through the two-part inventions and three-part sinfonias, Bartók also advances from simpler to more complicated pieces in his wonderful series. Both composers have given great music to children, who can now learn the art of keyboard playing without having to play bad music. The program ends with Bartók’s Out of Doors Suite—one of his masterpieces, especially the fourth work, “The Night’s Music.”
Kurtág’s Játékok (Games) are very much in this tradition. However, the four pieces I’m playing are deeply tragic and sad, quasi requiems for friends who have recently passed away. Haydée Charbagi was a Tunisian musicologist and literary scholar who died in Paris at the age of 28. Kálmán Strém was the best concert promoter and impresario in Hungary. I knew him very well; he died in 2007 in his mid-70s. And finally my mother: Kurtág was very fond of her and this piece arrived two days after her death. She died at age 95 on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10—what a date).
Widmann is a very talented composer of the younger generation. I wanted to include him here and asked him to write something that would go well with the rest of this program. The Beethoven Op. 126 Bagatelles are essential music—his final thoughts on the piano.
Related: Perspectives: András SchiffMay 2 András SchiffMay 3 Making Music: Jörg WidmannMay 5 Salzburg Marionette Theater | András SchiffMay 6 Carnegie Hall Family Concert: Salzburg Marionette Theater | András SchiffMay 12 András Schiff | Christian Gerhaher