Leoš Janáček - A Recollection

András Schiff

The peerless András Schiff in his first recital recording of Janacek’s piano music. The "story-telling " piano pieces chosen by Schiff can be closely related to Bartók’s "Mikrokosmos" and have a similarly timeless appeal. As writer Rob Cowan notes, "No matter how many times you listen to these gems, the sum effect of emotional engagement, wonderment and love of life is as lasting as one’s admiration for the music’s miniaturist construction. They are truly ‘the world in a grain of sand’."

Featured Artists Recorded

January 2000, Schloss Mondsee

Original Release Date

11.05.2001

  • In the mists / Im Nebel
    (Leoš Janáček)
  • 1I.03:16
  • 2II.04:26
  • 3III.02:57
  • 4IV.04:18
  • Sonata 1.X.1905
    (Leoš Janáček)
  • 5The presentiment / Die Ahnung - Con moto05:03
  • 6The death / Der Tod - Adagio08:17
  • On an overgrown path I / Auf verwachsenem Pfade I
    (Leoš Janáček)
  • 7Our evenings / Unsere Abende - Moderato03:23
  • 8A blown away leaf / Ein verwehtes Blatt - Andante02:56
  • 9Come with us! / Kommt mit! - Andante01:16
  • 10The Madonna of Frýdek / Die Friedeker Mutter Gottes - Grave03:37
  • 11They chattered like swallows / Sie schwatzten wie die Schwalben - Con moto02:05
  • 12Words fail! / Es stockt das Wort! - Andante01:48
  • 13Good night! / Gute Nacht! - Andante03:03
  • 14Unutterable anguish / So namenlos bange - Andante03:21
  • 15In tears / In Tränen - Lerghetto02:34
  • 16The barn owl has not flown away! / Das Käuzchen ist nicht fortgeflogen! - Andante04:11
  • On an overgrown path II / Auf verwachsenem Pfade I
    (Leoš Janáček)
  • 17I. Andante03:33
  • 18II. Allegretto03:34
  • On an overgrown path (Paralipomena) / Auf verwachsenem Pfade (Paralipomena)
    (Leoš Janáček)
  • 19I. Più mosso02:34
  • 20II. Allegro06:05
  • 21III. Vivo02:01
  • 22A recollection / Eine Erinnerung - Con moto
    (Leoš Janáček)
    01:08
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Vierteljahresliste 3/2001)
BBC Music Magazine, Pick of the month
 
No matter what he plays, Schiff is a stranger to exaggeration, but not to the expression of intense emotion. And he combines extreme sophistication with a directness of utterance which is very close to the folk tradition, though this is sometimes belied by his innate and possibly incurable elegance. ... Schiff shows a keen understanding of the music's polyphonic aspect. And the combined beauty of the piano-playing and the recorded sound, added to the virtues noted above, surely establish a new benchmark for this repertoire.
Jeremy Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine
 
Leos Janácek wrote few piano works. Fortunately for us, those he did - some of which feature on this disc - are of such immense power and scope that they convey the whole gamut of his emotions. András Schiff's interpretations are exemplary, combining precision with adventurous fluidity. He expertly tackles the many changes in dynamic, from gentle contemplation to forceful climaxes. This is indeed a performance of exciting contrasts.
Paul Briggs, Classic fM
 
There are a vew bodies of work that make up a more satisfying CD program than the piano music of Czech composer Leos Janácek. Measuring some 77 minutes in toto, the tragic Piano Sonata 1.X.1905, the two books of atmospheric miniatures titled In the Mist and On an Overgrown Path, and the rarely heard nostalgic gem A Recollection constitute an intensely intimate set of emotional shadow play. ... In his third outing for ECM Hungarian artisan András Schiff offers his own, more pensive take on this sublime music. While plumbing the Piano Sonata's depths, he also revels in the luminosity of the miniatures, abetted by the resonant ECM sonics. This is the height of keyboard poetry.
Bradley Bambarger, Billboard
 
Schiff's artistry and Janácek's music merge as a compelling whole. I urge anyone remotely interested in this repertoire to buy this release. A triumph.
Jed Distler, Stereophile
 
Here is the burning heart of Janácek's small corpus of piano music: the 10 short movements of On an Overgrown Path, and two sets of supplementary pieces; the beautiful, enigmatic four pieces of In the Mist; the two-movement Sonata 1.X.1905; and the minute-long A Recollection. In the Mist has the amplitude of a sonata, and Schiff brings a dramatic swagger to it, as well as a yearning intensity. The actual sonata, a memorial to a Czech worker bayoneted by Habsburg troops on the date specified, is only a torso - the finale was scrapped by the composer - but a blinding masterpiece. Schiff finds a Schubertian immensity in the adagio second movement, Death. A Recollection is the perfect envoy: a haunting epitome of what makes Janácek so distinctive.
The Sunday Times
 
Janácek war ein Komponist, der im Bereich der Klaviermusik die kleine Form liebte und sich immer stark zu den nationalen Elementen seiner Heimat hingezogen fühlte. Aber halt nicht immer. Gerade die von Schiff massiv und sinnlich interpretierte zweisätzige Sonate aus dem Jahre 1905 zeigt einen anderen Janácek, einen, der in einer Art romantischem Gefühl die Todesängste darstellt. Schiff weiß die Gefühlswelt mit einer faszinierenden Melancholie und mit feinsinniger Tongestaltung nachzuvollziehen, so dass er den Zuhörer ergreift. Und dies schafft er auch in dem zweigeteilten Zyklus Auf verwachsenem Pfade von 1908, dem Schiff die erst 1942 entstandenen drei Stücke als Supplement folgen lässt. ... Eine Einspielung die aufhorchen lässt.
Carsten Dürer, Piano News
 
Bei András Schiff ist Janácek auch der Erbe von Schubert und Brahms. Warme Klanglichkeit, empfindende Dynamik und melodische Feinzeichnung kennzeichnen Schiffs Spiel, und gerade solche Sensibilität bewahrt den Interpreten umgekehrt vor sentimentaler Weichspülerei. Schiff zielt nicht auf theatralische Kontraste. Und doch ist die dramatische Spannung von emotionaler Anteilnahme, subjektiver Verletzlichkeit und wahrer Empfingung auf der einen, unwehleidiger Prägnanz auf der anderen Seite bewegend, ja kongenial gestaltet.
Martin Mezger, Stereoplay
 
Die Klaviermusik von Janácek gehört zum Poetischsten, was im 20. Jahrhundert geschrieben wurde - Musik des Zwielichts, der nostalgischen Erinnerung, introvertiert und lebenserfüllt zugleich. András Schiff betont in seinem Spiel das reflektierende Moment; er wählt durchweg recht getragene Tempi, vor allem in der zweisätzigen Klaviersonate 1. X. 1905. Damit interpretiert er Janácek, der gelegentlich noch immer etwas herablassend in die Folkloristen-Ecke gestellt wird, als das, was er in Wirklichkeit ist, nämlich als grossen Komponisten von universaler Gültigkeit.
Thomas Schulz, Applaus
 
 
The third ECM New Series release by András Schiff is his long-awaited recital recording of the piano music of Leos Janácek (1854-1928). He has been playing this music, to spell-binding effect, for many years. The Budapest-born pianist has long been interested in parallels between Janácek and Béla Bartok, and by the way in which Janácek drew upon Moravian folk roots, much as Bartók drew upon Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak and Transylvanian music. Each of these composers contributed to the national culture of his homeland by making evident what was already there, as well as by channelling it for differentiated artistic purpose. "These are healthy roots," Schiff told German arts magazine Ibykus, "from which one can take sustenance, and build upon."

Robert Cowan, writing in the CD booklet for the present release, also emphasises the life-affirming qualities of Janácek's piano music: "No matter how many times you listen to these gems, the sum effect of emotional engagement, wonderment and love of life is as lasting as one's admiration for the music's miniaturist construction. They are truly "the world in a grain of sand". Trawling the repertory for piano masterpieces from roughly the same period, only Bartók's gnomic "ethno-narratives" (Out of Doors, Bagatelles, selected pieces from Mikrokosmos, etc) can claim anything like equal musical status. Janácek's piano music anticipates the compressed keyboard tone poetry of such feted modern masters as György Kurtág and Arvo Pärt. They are, for the most part, honest fragments of personal biography, utterly uncompromising and securely grounded in the land of their birth. There is nothing contrived about them, absolutely no empty striving for effect, and yet their force of utterance is formidable. They confirm the mastery of a creative force who was, by turns, afflicted or infatuated by life." And definitively Czech: "His was an unlikely voice to represent a cultural identity for Czechoslovakia", the BBC Music Magazine remarked recently, "but it was an unlikely nation. The accent of Janácek's music is peculiar, the distinctive sound is somewhere deep in the provinces of the provinces..."

"In The Mist" (1912) is amongst Janácek's more enigmatic piano works. In a time of emotional crisis, the composer attempts to clarify confused memories and to confront self-doubt. "In The Mist" was composed when Janácek, already almost 60, was trying to come to terms with his apparent failure as a writer of opera, which he regarded as his true calling. (Fame came to Janácek very late, and there was a great upturn in his fortunes after 1920).

"1.X.1905" was written to honour a Czech workman, Frantisek Pavlik, shot during an anti-German demonstration in Brno. Only two movements of this piano sonata now remain but, as Cowan notes, "it still has the power to shock. As with Schubert's Eighth and Bruckner's Ninth Symphonies, its impact seems somehow to have been strengthened by the absence of a finale. The remaining torso stands powerfully on its own terms."

Schiff also plays the complete "On an Overgrown Path" cycle. The pieces of Book I were brought together in 1908; several were conceived originally for harmonium as early 1901/2, while Janácek was also working on the "Jenufa" opera. Moravian folk melodies influence several of the pieces and their titles are also derived in part from Moravian folk poetry. The last three of the Book I compositions allude to the illness and death - at the age of only 21 - of Janácek's daughter, Olga. The tone of the work as a whole is complex: "Janácek's ability to switch mood - sometimes within a mere two or three bars of music - from hopelessness to reconciliation, from rage to despair or affirmation, is unique. One marvels at the music's inherent spontaneity while at the same time admiring the skill of the design."

The album concludes with the tiny "A Recollection", written in 1928, a miniature to rival any of Webern's in its jewelled brilliance.

Liner notes for the present CD also include an open letter to András Schiff by Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz, distinguished author of "Fateless" and "Kaddish for a Child Not Born", works for he received the "Welt" Literature Prize last autumn.

YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 June 26 Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Germany
2024 June 30 Château du Clos de Vougeot Burgund, France
2024 July 04 Palacio Carlos V Granada, Spain
2024 July 11 Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany
2024 July 16 Pfarrkirche Lockenhaus, Austria
2024 July 23 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 25 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 27 Menuhin Festival- Kirche Saanen Gstaad, Switzerland
2025 May 18 Herkulessaal Munich, Germany
2025 May 19 Tonhalle Zurich, Switzerland