First half, Goldberg Variations.
As it dawns on me that he’s going to play all the repeats, I feel vaguely uneasy, but in fact I never once felt bored. His ornamentation in the repeats was playful and always illuminated the structure. Then his stroke of genius: when he played the return of the Aria at the end, he strips away bits of ornamentation in the repeats, leaving just the melody to make its ultimate impact. Worked brilliantly.
The Beethoven Diabelli Variations in the last half.
Schiff sounded like a different pianist here. Where the Bach was all about illuminating structure, in the Beethoven his musical choices all amplified the drama, weird humour or emotional connections of the Diabelli’s. Amazing use of the soft pedal to really play up dynamic contrasts.
Finally, as an encore, the variations from Beethoven’s last sonata, Op. 111.
This is a piece of music that I have to be honest, I’ve always had trouble connecting to. That weird jazzy variation in the middle is so odd. But Schiff somehow delivered it in a way that it finally clicked for me. This was truly transcendent music. The tone of the piano in places was so magical. I caught myself not breathing multiple times. I was in the palm of his hand through the whole movement. Great great concert.