They love Andras Schiff in Leipzig, but not all can endure him

They love Andras Schiff in Leipzig, but not all can endure him


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2022

Andras Schiff received the 2022 Bach-Medaille in Leipzig last night after playing the complete first book of the Well-tempered Clavier.

A retired administrator noted: ‘I was there, but left just before the ceremony – loo called and at my age that is significant. The whole of book 1 in one sitting is just too much for me. Those 5-bar rallentandos before last prominent chord in each p and f in the second half of the book I find difficult.’

See also: Schiff flushes them out


  • Andrey says:

    I have to share the story – I met Schiff on one festival as an orchestra member. He played well but was seriously rude numerous times towards orchestral players – both professional and from youth orchestra at the said festival, once terminating the rehearsal “until an orchestra member learned his part” (in my opinion undeservedly so towards that person.

    I find myself not being able to enjoy him after this. Good musician needs to be a descen person as well.

    • Colin says:

      A good musician needs to be a Mensch

    • Vera says:

      Absolutely true. Great musician used to have an musical and emotional intelligence in spite to reach their objectives, too. There is always an conductor to any musical requests or corrections at performance but it never allows to soloist any pretentious or rude behaviour as to “educate” or reprimending people who works for his success! It is not only rude, is just unacceptable under any circumstances! Who he thinks he is? Gods messenger sent to humans to teach them this way? I’ve been hearing some similar stories about Schiff at a few occasions already and I am musician by my own, used to be an very known orchestra’s member. I remember still very young Schiff playing Brahms both piano concertos with us and it was still his inexperience noticeably evident but yes, he was rude to the people. Very bad quality to an artist like him.

  • IC225 says:

    Interesting case. I know people who are close to him and treasure his friendship and artistry as something of immense sincerity and warmth. Equally I’ve been to concerts where he’s behaved with icy disdain towards his audience, killing any sense of connection with the music and his performance.

    Doubtless Schiff regards the idea of music as entertainment – or something merely to be enjoyed – with scorn. But by turning it into something to be endured (and no-one, certainly not Bach, has ever required these pieces to be played in one unbroken stretch, as if they’re Act 3 of Parsifal) he does more harm than good. The audience must – MUST – come first. This, at the very least, sounds like gratuitous discourtesy in pursuit of no meaningful artistic end.

    • Nagy Ervin says:

      Wrong. The music come first. You can trust Bach, centuries already proved him. If you want entertainment, you better go to a circus.

  • Alan says:

    I’d make the point that was made by someone on the other thread. I saw him do Book 2 in Salzburg five or so years ago. Interval. No problem. Pure bull to suggest it needs to be performed in one sitting.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Time to add another SIR …
    Big deal!

  • Paul Dawson says:

    What tuning and temperament does he use? Personally, I go for a harpsichord tuned to A=415 and meantone. I may not draw audiences like Schiff, but I haven’t (thus far) received a litany of ad hominem attacks on SD.

    My audience (Sputnik, my golden retriever) and I both enjoy a short pause after each P & F to digest the piece just performed. A little touch of whimsy (which I have to confess, Sputnik enjoys less than I do) is to use a random number generator to dictate the sequence. I feel John Cage’s blessing from on high when I do this.

    But I would never commit the sacrilege of blending works from WTC 1 with those from WTC 2.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Dear Andras. Treat me with disdain and you can count me out subsidizing your mortgage and what not. We don’t need Scrooges in this day and age of insanity, Andras. We can do bloody well without you if need be. Never forget that.

  • Ann says:

    I was once at a concert when he flew into a rage when his page turner missed a repeat.

  • Peter says:

    I was at a performance of a Beethoven piano & cello sonata at the Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg a few years ago, when the young page turner made a simple mistake with the exposition repeat. Instead of turning the page himself (as I saw happen during an incredibly complicated Adès piece once when the pianist simply rectified the mistake without missing a beat), he stopped the performance and publicity bullied and humiliated the young girl in front of the entire audience. The man is a pig.

  • SpringPrince says:

    Here again, SlippedDisc centers around a few bad tempered haters, instead on the the Well Tempered Clavier marvels by Andràs Schiff.

    Envy is a well known corrosive substance in the table of elements, and of a highly concentrated mass density level in the specific case of the editor of this monotonous gossip-blog. The editor quotes this time a Lilliputian “retired administrator” (probably so retired he is unable to comunicate independently…). The editor, together with his band of some other retired “administrators” and a few juvenile bacchanal haters are puzzled that with Rossini’s “La calunnia è un venticello” they actually keep achieving nothing, and their attempted venticelli whispers of calumniators do not even stir the waters where Schiff’s ship is sailing with his listeners in the ocean of Bach. They achieve no crescendo of schiamazzo, no colpo di cannone, no tumulto generale ( quoting Don Basilio), no aria rimbombar, only the Goldberg aria as encore.

    Now less poetry and more practicalities-
    1) for those who unfortunately suffer from clinical benign prostatic symptoms, no cynicism here at all, even the Eroica symphony would often be too long. Just book a seat directly near one of the concert hall’s doors so you could independently decide when to take your break ad libitum, fuori ordinanza of the music score.

    2) for those who suffer from benign patience symptoms on the other hand, much cynicism here, just try to consider how a continuous two hours Bach concert is actually a wonderful both hypnosis and lucid concentration experience when played like Schiff. Just Consider for example how so many here in Italy daily sit down for dinner for 2 even 3 hours without moving, and certainly not going to the toilet every 45-60 minutes during dinner!

    3. On the other hand, In case you attend concerts mainly for the entertaining social “mingling” during the intermission and the glamour show off, consider more going to the vast variety of gala concerts. This is not elitist concept, I know you would hardly believe me on this. But some people prefer Rembrandt, some prefer Boucher. Some both. For many, the lack of social mingling effects in a no break continuous Well Tempered Clavier recital is a privilege of concentration.

  • Catherine Manson says:

    Just to add…I found this concert in Leipzig to be one of the most illuminating and uplifting I have ever attended. We are so lucky to have such an incredibly fine musician spend so much of their time living and breathing this music, who is also able and willing to share it with others. Also one of the kindest, most generous, warm-hearted people I know.

  • Novagerio says:

    “Sir András” is such a pretentiously self-important balloon head.
    So much the opposite character of the late Radu Lupu.

  • Sebastian H says:

    The sort of musician who has hurt the industry more than helped it. I look forward to him, Barenboim, Isserlis, and other bores who act like they’re Prophets of God on Earth being gone for good.

  • PJB says:

    Did the tuner tune in a so-called “well temperament”? (A listener with a good ear will know & can answer)