W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni, Overture, K. 527
W. A. Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
Antonín Dvořák: Slavonic Dances, series I, Op. 46, B. 83
The closing of this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival will be a true grand finale. Joining forces will be the festival’s orchestra-in-residence the Czech Philharmonic, and the Dvořák Prague Festival artist-in-residence Sir András Schiff, who will be presenting himself not only as a pianist, but also, perhaps a bit surprisingly for some, as a conductor. No one, however, who is familiar with his work at the helm of the orchestra Capella Andrea Barca (a cryptogram of Schiff’s name) should be surprised; they will know that this is truly something to look forward to. Popular masterpieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonín Dvořák will shine when given first-class performances by masterful interpreters.
The gates to Mozart’s music will be thrown open twice by dramatic chords in D minor; first with the overture to the opera Don Giovanni, which was given its world premiere at Prague’s Estates Theatre, which remains a fantastic venue for Mozart’s music to this day. The ominous sound of the orchestra in D minor also opens a beautiful piano concerto that reminds us perhaps even more that Mozart’s music never lacks exciting energy even at moments of seriousness.
The festival’s final moments will be devoted to the first series of Slavonic Dances, which make the impression as if Dvořák had simply jotted them down during a moment of great joy. Concealed beneath the spontaneous surface of these wonderfully composed pieces is the touch of a master who can do almost whatever he wishes with music. Surprisingly, this performance, together with the 2nd series of Slavonic Dances played by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra with Jakub Hrůša, will be the first hearing of the orchestral versions of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances in the festival’s history. This fact is further highlighted by the role of both orchestras and of Sir András Schiff as artists-in-residence at the 2021 Dvořák Prague Festival.
Sir András Schiff was born in Budapest in 1953. He received his first piano lessons at the age of five by Elisabeth Vadász. He later continued his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest with Prof. Pál Kadosa, György Kurtág and Ferenc Rados and with George Malcolm in London.
Piano recitals are an important part of his activity, especially the cyclical performances of the piano works of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók. Since 2004, Sir András Schiff has performed the complete cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven's piano sonatas in chronological order in more than 20 cities. Their live recordings from the Zurich Tonhalle on CD (ECM) received the highest awards.
For his recording “Ghost Variations” with works by Robert Schumann (ECM), Sir András Schiff received the International Classical Music Award 2012 in the category Solo Instrument. Recording of the year. A duo CD together with his wife Yuuko Shiokawa (violin) with works by J. S. Bach, F. Busoni and L. van Beethoven was released in autumn 2017 and a recording with piano works by F. Schubert in 2019.
His most recent recordings are from the last two years: A chamber music edition in collaboration with clarinettist and composer Jörg Widmann includes the two clarinet sonatas op. 120 by J. Brahms as well as the Intermezzi for piano composed by J. Widmann and dedicated to Sir András Schiff. The latest recording with a recording of the two piano concertos by J. Brahms on a Blüthner piano with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was released in 2021.
In 2017 his book “Music Comes from Silence”, essays and conversations with Martin Meyer, was published by Bärenreiter and Henschel.
Sir András Schiff performs with most of the internationally important orchestras and conductors. One of his main focuses is on performances of the piano concertos of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven under his direction. In 1999 he founded his own chamber orchestra, the Cappella Andrea Barca, which he works with closely as conductor and soloist, as he does with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Sir András Schiff has been a passionate chamber musician since his early youth. From 1989 to 1998 he directed the Musiktage Mondsee, a chamber music festival that received high international recognition. Together with Heinz Holliger, he held the artistic direction of the Ittinger Pfingstkonzerte at Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland, from 1995 to 2013. Since 1998, the concert series Omaggio a Palladio has been held at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza under the direction of Sir András Schiff.
In the spring of 2011 Mr Schiff attracted attention because of his opposition to the alarming political development in Hungary and in view of the ensuing attacks on him from some Hungarian Nationalists, decided not to perform again in his home country. Sir András Schiff has been awarded several international prizes. He was recognised for his exceptional standing as a Beethoven interpreter in June 2006 by being elected an honorary member of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn. In September 2008 Sir András Schiff received the Wigmore Hall Medal for his 30 years of musical activity. Sir András Schiff is also the recipient of the 2011 Robert Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau. In January 2012, the artist was awarded the Golden Mozart Medal of the International Mozarteum Foundation. The following June, he received the “Order pour le mérite for Sciences and Arts”. In the same year he was appointed as an honorary member of the Wiener Konzerthaus and as a Special Supernumerary Fellow of Balliol College (Oxford, UK). Sir András Schiff was awarded the Grosse Verdienstkreuz mit Stern of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2012. In December 2013, he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London for his outstanding musical work, the highest award of this society. In July 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Leeds and in March 2018 by His Royal Highness Prince Charles as President of the Royal College of Music.
In June 2014, he was appointed Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music. Since December 2014, Sir András Schiff has been an honorary citizen of the city of Vicenza. In June 2022, Sir András Schiff was awarded the Bach Medal of the City of Leipzig as “one of the most important Bach interpreters of our time”.
The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.