András Schiff plays Beethoven

It’s amazing how modern a Bechstein grand piano made in 1921 can sound in direct comparison with a fortepiano made by Franz Brodmann around 1820. András Schiff demonstrates as much very forcefully: in 2012, he recorded Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on both instruments for the ECM label.

Schiff said it was “simply a pleasure to be able to play on two different beautiful instruments. However, the listening habits of audiences and music critics alike are still fairly one-sided. They’re dominated by prejudices; there’s no curiosity.” Schiff purposely chose a Bechstein piano and an instrument from Beethoven’s day. “The 1921 Bechstein represents a world long forgotten. Wilhelm Backhaus played it often, and used it on recordings. And we may recall that Bechstein was Arthur Schnabel’s preferred brand. Schnabel’s piano tone – especially playing Beethoven and Schubert – has always been my model. The Bechstein piano helps me come closer to that ideal.”

These outstanding recordings explain why Schiff’s Beethoven interpretations have achieved a similar status today to those of Backhaus and Schnabel. And as an encore, Schiff rounds out this total work of art with Beethoven’s last Sonata, op. 111, on the Bechstein, and the Bagatelles, op. 126, on the Brodmann.