Mozart • JS Bach

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart • JS Bach
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Symphony No. 35 (Haffner); Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor; Don Giovanni – Overture • Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor; Bonus: András Schiff in conversation
PERFORMER: Cappella Andrea Barca/András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Medici Arts 2057268 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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The most striking feature of this performance in the superb Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (of which we see too little in this DVD) is that the Overture to Don Giovanni is given a new ending and linked to the D minor Piano Concerto, which András Schiff sees as being in the same vein – the introduction to the Overture also reappears in Schiff’s cadenza to the last movement.

To substantiate his claim, Schiff gives an unusually dark account of the Concerto, and his orchestra has a bottom-heavy sound, as the opening of the Overture unquestionably requires.

The Haffner Symphony, too, receives a sober performance: by no stretch could the opening movement be considered allegro con spirito, Mozart’s marking.

There is an earnestness about these accounts, as well as a seriousness, which deprives them of the characteristically Mozartian mixture of light and shade.

For an encore Schiff plays Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue. I agree with Glenn Gould that the Fantasy is an intolerable piece, which Schiff over-interprets, seeking for deeper meanings in what strike me as superior Bachian doodlings.

The Fugue, though, is superb, and seems to me to show where his greatest gifts as a performer lie. Schiff’s let-every-note-be-heard approach, while educational, can make one feel one is in a classroom rather than a concert hall or a theatre.

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In the bonus ‘Schiff in Conversation’ his schoolmasterly manner is, as one might expect, accentuated. What he says is true but not new. Michael Tanner