Following last year's completion of his highly-praised Beethoven cycle András Schiff returns to Bach with a superb interpretation of the six "Partitas". It was recorded live in September 2007 at Neumarkt Reitstadl, one of the best piano music venues in Europe. The cycle, which in 1731 was the first group of works to be published by Bach himself, represents a unique stylistic synthesis of the suite form with a particular emphasis on most varied and imaginative opening movements. In his 1802 biography of Bach, Nikolaus Forkel famously wrote that "such splendid compositions for the clavier had not been seen or heard before… so brilliant, harmonious, expressive and constantly novel are they."
Although his earlier Bach recordings are still available, this is Schiff’s new Bach: Compared to his London studio version of 1983 this second rendering of the Partitas on disc demonstrates Schiff's stylistic development towards more freedom, personal expression and sheer pleasure of phrasing. His playing on stage combines spontaneity and intellectual depth, ravishing sound with superb technical finish. In his personal note for the present recording Schiff writes: "Conducting the St. Matthew Passion and the B-minor Mass several times were experiences that have left an indelible mark on my piano performances: we frequently find dance movements in Bach's church music, and his instrumental works were often inspired by his sacred compositions."
The pianist’s rather unorthodox sequence of Partitas – 5 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 4 - 6 – draws an ascending line of keys leading from G major to e minor. It reflects a long experience with the pieces on stage. According to Schiff the Clavierübung “is designed to be at once enyclopaedic, scholarly and instructive. Nonetheless, the six partitas form an ideal, if long, concert program: Bach’s music succeeds over and over again in forging an intimate bond between performer and audience.”
András Schiff, born in Budapest in 1953, puts a strong focus on cyclic performances of the important piano works by the masters from Bach to Bártok. His wide-ranging discography on ECM includes works by Janáček, Schubert, Bach, Schumann, Mozart and many others. Schiff's most ambitious project to date, the complete Beethoven sonata cycle in more than 15 major musical centers worldwide was completed in April 2009 with two triumphant recitals in New York's Carnegie Hall. In 1999 Schiff created his own chamber orchestra, the Cappella Andrea Barca, which consists of international soloists, chamber musicians and friends. In addition to working annually with this Orchestra, he conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra London and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Following his half-year's leave from the concert platform during this autumn, Schiff will be back next spring performing – among other works – extensive cycles of Bach's keyboards music in major music cities.