Manfred Schmidt plays on his own Bechstein

Berlin has been Bechstein’s heartland ever since Carl Bechstein founded the company in the city in 1853. Meanwhile, a wealth of Bechstein upright and grand pianos stand in music institutions and private music rooms all over the city.

People who can play a C. Bechstein D 282 concert grand at home feel blessed. This particularly applies to Manfred Schmidt, a piano teacher at Berlin’s University of Fine Arts who recently recorded a CD on his own grand at Berlin-Heiligensee’s former village school. Concert technician Johannes Kammann worked wonders in tuning the instrument, embracing the intimate character of the location without giving the piano a dry, “living room” voice.

Schmidt’s interpretation also incorporates the former school’s intimate character. The pianist plays Bach (Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998; Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906; Concerto in D minor, BWV 974), Beethoven (Tempest sonata in D minor) and four Bach transcriptions by Kempff, Bauer, Busoni and Hess. In doing so, Schmidt lives up to the great tradition of German piano academies from Schnabel to Fischer to Kempff. His clear, singing and natural interpretation never sounds exaggerated, artificial or extravagant. Although his version of Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata includes more rapid tempi than Wilhelm Kempff’s interpretation from the mid-1960s, it is different – even in the finale – to versions by “tempestuous” pianists.

Schmidt lets the music speak – with his Bechstein as an excellent partner.