Andras Schiff returns to Hungary, almost

The celebrated pianist, ends a prolonged absence from his homeland by playing at the Esterházy Concert Series next weekend, just across the border in Haydn’s Eisenstadt. He’s not actually entering Hungarian territory, but coming closer than he has been for years.

In an interview with a Hungarian newspaper, he admits to missing the chirping of sparrows in Budapest and maintained a certain enigma about the present situation.

Index.hu: If you had to sum up Hungary in a single chord, which one would you choose and why?
András Schiff: The tritonus which was called the devil’s interval in the Middle Ages.

He is comparably acidic on the present state of music:

Today, everything is in business, commercialism, marketing, and it is extremely tasteless and disgusting. The fact that, for example, I managed to achieve something in the midst of all this, is almost a miracle.

Full interview here.

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  • girlfromHU says:

    Eisenstadt is still Austria 😀 ok obviously it’s close, but not Hungary.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Err, it was in the Hungarian part of Habsburg monarchy, so historically was “Hungarian” despite being largely German speaking: unofficially “German West Hungary”. The area elected to join Austria after the first world war, although it looked different to other parts of Austria because it did not have the traditional Austrian institutions which the “Austrian” parts of Austro-Hungary had. The Esterhazy, the local aristocrats, were considered the “first-prince” of Hungary, even though their first language was German.

  • mr oakmountain says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht,
    you are posting so many interesting and important things.

    Why use a headline which you know to be blatantly wrong in every possible sense?
    Mr Schiff has always been playing in Austria, and this appearance has nothing to do which his stance on Hungarian politics, which you know perfectly well.

    Completely unnecessary, IMHO.

  • Lilas Pastia says:

    During the Habsburg double monarchy, Eisenstadt was in the Kingdom of Hungary, and was only ceded to Austria in 1925. So historically more Hungary than Austria

  • Doug says:

    “…Today, everything is in business, commercialism, marketing…”

    It is precisely this that makes us even bother to acknowledge Schiff. He is exactly what he accuses others of being.

    “..,and it is extremely tasteless and disgusting.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      +200

    • M2N2K says:

      You must be confusing him with someone else, because one does not have to be an admiring fan of Andras Schiff’s musicianship to hear in his performances that “tasteless and disgusting” is something he is not and has never been. He is a truly refined and sensitive musician.

      • esfir ross says:

        Not aggree-his Beethoven sonatas was awful. The rest of his performed repertoire-mostly mediocre. Over-hyped

        • M2N2K says:

          His performance of a Beethoven’s Sonata in a recital that I heard last year was nothing short of stupendous. He may sometimes be criticized for being a little too reserved – he certainly is no “showman” – but in that case his interpretation was truly exciting, while his musical taste and refinement are always impeccable. In music written before 1860 or thereabout, Andras Schiff is as good as any pianist performing these days.

    • Jaypee says:

      And enters doug, our resident trumpanzee, pretending to have moral authority over a great pianist after voting for cretin donald, the pussy grabber…

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Even in this degenerate state the Proms gave him 2 1/2 hours non-stop for his Bach recital. When has music been free from monetary concerns. Most composers and other musicians do not take and have not taken a vow of poverty.

  • Stephen says:

    It’s all very well to denigrate “business, commercialism, marketing”, but the fact is that our lives would be far less comfortable without them. If Schiff wants to be poorer he should return to Hungary to live – the average wage there is a third of what it is in the West.

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      “If Schiff wants to be poorer he should return to Hungary to live – the average wage there is a third of what it is in the West.”

      Wages don’t really matter for someone like András Schiff, who certainly earns his livelihood by playing concerts all over the world. He could buy three times as much there. But I’m sure he has other reasons for not wanting to live there.

      But I really have no argument with your other comments re: business, etc.

  • Caravaggio says:

    This begs repeating: “Today, everything is in business, commercialism, marketing, and it is extremely tasteless and disgusting.”

    Every participating performer in the scheme knows who he or she is and well know how they profit. It is classical music’s hats off to global income inequality. But why name names?

  • Sue says:

    He’s a rather dull man and I find his playing dull – having been to many of his performances. And, like so many artists, he is cloistered in another world remote from most of our experiences yet feel strangely empowered, experienced and sophisticated enough to make sweeping political pronouncements. I wonder if he or others like him has ever had a beer can hurled at him at a sporting event? A bit of empathy for ordinary people and their lot in life would work wonders for the moral posturing and pontification we get from so many, er, celebrities.

    • jaypee says:

      “A bit of empathy for ordinary people and their lot in life would work wonders for the moral posturing and pontification we get from so many, er, celebrities.”

      And yet, you worship cretin donald the pussy grabber… Ironic, isn’t it?

  • Hilary says:

    “Full interview here”

    In Hungarian.
    On all accounts a difficult language to master.

    I’m a big fan of the Spas in Budapest.

  • HSY says:

    “Today, everything is in business, commercialism, marketing, and it is extremely tasteless and disgusting. The fact that, for example, I managed to achieve something in the midst of all this, is almost a miracle.”

    Very disingenuous statement. Does he really believe he has the force of personality like Fischer or Schnabel (to name two with a similar repertoire) to establish a career that is close to what he has now in the golden age of pianism, when pianists cannot rely on commercial recordings and before “everything is in business, commercialism, marketing”? It is precisely the relentless effort of recording business to churn out cycle after cycle that served as the perfect marketing vehicle for pianists like him. And it is no coincidence that pianists of his type are on the wane now that the recording industry is decimated compared to what it was before.

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