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Leila has done it again! Last night at the Chan Centre the Vancouver Recital Society presented a fantastic and absolutely memorable season opener. Playing to a packed house on a gorgeous new Steinway gifted to the VRS by music lover and philanthropist Martha Lou Henley, Andras Schiff performed the entire first book of Johann Sebastian Bach’s the Well-tempered Clavier. Schiff’s first appearance for the Vancouver Recital Society was in 1982 and what a marvelous anniversary evening this was!

Seeing the lone Schiff on stage in the magnificent Chan Centre I felt I was in a cathedral, with its’ soaring ceilings and dedication of an entire evening to the Bach Well-Tempered Clavier consisting of 24 Preludes and Fugues moving from C major chromatically up the scale in major and minor modes to end with the Fugue in B minor.  From the first note, I was transported to an altogether different plane of existence, and I was not alone, Andras Schiff held the audience in rapt attention, spell-bound through the entire journey.

Schiff’s superb renderings of the preludes were at times gentle, earthly and playful, while the fugues were monumental and magnificent. His voicings were pure and the piano responded beautifully. Never once using the pedal, relying only on his clean articulation and physical sustain to create depth and resonance to the sound, he was able to achieve musical lines and phrases that touched the soul.  The technical filigree work and intense fast passage work were equally sensational in their execution, but the technical never once outpowered the musical intent of the line and direction of the music. But it was the way Schiff was able to conjure the intangible, the spiritual, that “vastness” of human experience that Bach opens for us, that was truly uplifting. Pacing the performance perfectly with no breaks save for an intermission after the twelfth fugue, Schiff drew us in and held us with his understanding and love for this genius, JS Bach.

The Well-tempered Clavier dates from a prolific period in Bach’s life in Cothen, where he had a sympathetic and generous patron, Prince Leopold, behind him, allowing him the freedom of time to explore and produce instrumental music. The magnificent works for solo cello and violin, the French and English Suites the two and three part inventions and the Brandenburg Concertos as well as the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier were written in these years.

Thank you Leila for having the vision and fortitude to bring such monumental concerts to Vancouver! The Vancouver Recital Society has been going strong for over thirty years, enriching our lives and celebrating music in all it’s unabashed glory. 

The next Concert is Sunday October 21st at the Vancouver Playhouse.



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