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GG: Schiff Partitas

 	I had the good fortune to attend a concert yesterday at Avery Fisher
Hall at which Andras Schiff played all six partitas! I think my impressions
might be of interest to GG'ers, particularly given the indelible
performances of these works by GG. Apologies for any misuse of musical
terminology, or other infelicities -- I am not a musician, and my knowledge
is self-taught, from  listening and reading.
	It was an extraordinary experience. I was in 4th row orch., near the
center, but just far enough to the right so I could not see his hands. But
from his facial expressions, I could see his total involvement with the
music.  In 2-1/2 hours of playing, his concentration never wavered, and as
far as I would tell there were only two wrong (actually smudged) notes!

	Schiff's playing has a quality of repose that brings out a spiritual
side to the music that one does not generally get from Gould (except in some
of the later performances, such as the E major fugue from WTC 2 and the
excerpts from Art of Fugue which he plays in the "Fugue" video). The
sold-out audience, including seats on the stage, was raptly attentive
throughout, and completely quiet. At the end, one was grateful to Schiff, as
if he had given us a brief window into divinity. It was akin to a devotional

	And what about the purely "performance" aspect of the concert? He
rarely uses pedal, and when he does, it is done tastefully, and for a clear
musical purpose (for example, to hold an overtone from a cadence). Style is
mostly legato, but he can run off rapid contrapuntal passages with great
facility. Dynamic contrasts were effective, although somewhat broad; in
particularly forceful pasages, he lifted his hands high above the keyboard,
and thundered impressively. He brought out the contrapuntal lines clearly,
although with an occasional pounding of the bass, which was interesting at
first but became somewhat tiresome.(Brad -- I agree with your comments about
the importance of the bass line, but I think it is sufficient to make it of
equal emphasis with the right hand, rather than to overstate the case by
pounding, as Schiff sometimes did, and as GG does in the '81 Goldbergs)  He
took all repeats, and there was almost invariably some interesting element
of contrast (particularly in tempo, with the second rendition being
faster)between the first and second renditions. Some passages (particularly
sarabandes)had a lovely singing quality. 

	In short, the performance was an effective compromise between the
detache, uncompromisingly contrapuntal Gould approach and a more "Romantic"
homophonically- oriented approach like Fischer's. It was not boring or
generic, and there was a poignant quality to what I can only describe as
Schiff's engaged adoration of the music, but it lacked that extra touch of
stylistic individuality/daring that would have given it true greatness.

	One other point -- this performance reinforced my impression that
one of the essentials to an above-ordinary performance of this music is the
ability to sustain rhythmic propulsiveness and momentum  throughout each
section; every section has a destination, and with Gould (no matter how
eccentric the performance), one always has a feeling of forward thrust (as
if there is a great tailwind behind the music). With Schiff, although he
sometimes captured this quality, there were times when I detected a slight
hesitation between "paragraphs," as if he were pausing to catch his breath;
at times, there wa a feeling that the music was being pulled along (albeit
with fierce vigor) rather than propelled.

	Still, all in all, it was a privilege to hear this great music
played with such obvious love, and musical sensitivity.

	 I wish I had the time to tell you about specific partitas, and how
Schiff's performance differed from (or in some cases was in concord with)
GG's. Most of the time, Schiff succeeded in subduing my reflexive impulse to
hear his playing "shadowed" by GG's interpretations. However, there is one
particularly significant instance where this did not occur -- the Prelude
from the G major partita, which GG plays at fearsome speed, with perfect
clarity of articulation, sparkle, and high drama. Schiff's interpretation
was much slower and far more  gentle, and didn't win me over.