András Schiff

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András Schiff, January 6, 2012

András Schiff (Hungarian: [ˌɒndraːʃ ˈʃifː]; born 21 December 1953) is a Hungarian-born Jewish British classical pianist and conductor who has won a number of major awards. Since 2011, he has been an outspoken critic of the Hungarian government.


Schiff was born in Budapest into a Jewish family and began piano lessons at the age five with Elisabeth Vadasz. He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest with Pál Kadosa until 1974 and in London with George Malcolm. He was a finalist in the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in 1975. He emigrated from Hungary in 1979.1 He was unable to meet requirements for US citizenship because of his long absences for touring,2 and accepted Austrian citizenship in 1987 and established homes in London and Salzburg. He became a British citizen in 2001. He is married to the violinist Yuuko Shiokawa, and lives in London, England, and Florence, Italy.3

From 1989 until 1998 Schiff was Artistic Director of the "Musiktage Mondsee" chamber music festival near Salzburg. In 1995, he co- founded the "Ittinger Pfingstkonzerte" in Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland, together with the famed oboist Heinz Holliger. From 2004 to 2007 he was Artist in Residence of the Kunstfest Weimar. In the 2007-2008 season he was Pianist in Residence of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2011-12 he was one of the "Perspectives Artists" of Carnegie Hall,4 a prestigious position.

In 1999 he formed an occasional chamber orchestra, which he named the Cappella Andrea Barca, with the name coming from an Italian translation of his last name (Barca and Schiff both mean "boat"), although he has provided a humorous pseudo-biography of the fictional Barca.5 He has appeared as a conductor with several major orchestras, including regular appearances with Philharmonia Orchestra in London and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Schiff is one of the most renowned interpreters of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. He does not use the sustain pedal when playing Bach.6 His many recordings for the Decca label include the complete piano sonatas of Mozart and Schubert and much of the keyboard music of Bach, as well as the complete Mozart piano concertos with the Camerata Academica Salzburg led by Sándor Végh. His recordings for the Teldec label include the complete Beethoven piano concertos with the Staatskapelle Dresden led by Bernard Haitink. For the ECM label Schiff has recorded the music of Janáček and Sándor Veress, and made live recordings in the Zurich Tonhalle of all of Beethoven's piano sonatas. He gave a series of lecture-recitals on the complete Beethoven sonatas in London.7 His live concert recordings for ECM also include his second traversals of the Bach Partitas and Goldberg Variations.

For G. Henle, he provided fingerings for new editions of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier (published in 2006) and fingerings and missing cadenzas for a new edition of the Mozart piano concertos (begun in 2007).

He prefers to play a Bösendorfer piano rather than the more widely used Steinway, and when possible travels and performs with his own instrument. He has also recorded Mozart using Mozart's own piano.


Awards Schiff has won include a 1990 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) - English Suites by Bach; a 1990 Gramophone Award for a Schubert recital with Peter Schreier; the Bartok Prize in 1991; the Claudio Arrau Memorial Medal in 1994; the Kossuth Prize in 1996; the Léonie Sonning Music Prize in 1997; honorary membership in the Beethoven House in Bonn, awarded in 2006 in honor of his complete recording of Beethoven's piano sonatas; the Italian prize, Premio della critica musicale Franco Abbiati, also for his Beethoven cycle in 2007; also in 2007, the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize, sponsored by the Kohn Foundation, awarded to "an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the performance and/or scholarly study of Johann Sebastian Bach";8 the Wigmore Hall Medal in 2008;9 also in 2008, the Klavier-Festival Ruhr Prize, for outstanding pianistic achievement; the Robert Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau in 2011; and in January 2012, the Golden Mozart Medal of the International Stiftung Mozarteum of which there have been only four previous winners in 70 years. He has been made an Honorary Professor by music academies in Budapest, Detmold and Munich, and a Special Supernumerary Fellow of Balliol College of Oxford University. In December 2013, the Royal Philharmonic Society awarded him its Gold Medal.

Political views

Schiff has made public statements about politics in Austria and Hungary. He has also become an outspoken critic of the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, whom he has publicly accused of racism, anti-Semitism, and neo-fascism, stating in January 2012 that he would never again set foot in his native country.10


In 2000 he commented on the rise of the far right in Austria.11 He subsequently renounced his Austrian citizenship.


On 1 January 2011, Schiff published a letter in the Washington Post questioning whether "Hungary is ready and worthy to take on" the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, as it did that day,12 because of "racism, discrimination against the Roma, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, chauvinism and reactionary nationalism," and "the latest media laws" (referring to new media laws passed by the government of Viktor Orbán). On 16 January 2011, Schiff told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he had become "persona non grata" in Hungary and would probably never perform there again "or even visit." On 17 January he joined Hungarian conductor Ádám Fischer and six other Hungarian intellectuals and artists in publishing an open letter "To the artists of Europe and the World" protesting "racism against Roma, with homophobia and with antisemitism" and saying that "the freedom of the media, of the arts and artists, and of those who could most effectively act against such tendencies is more and more curtailed." The letter appeared in German and in English,13 with a note of support from Daniel Barenboim appended. As a result of his statements, he came under attack from Hungarian nationalists.14 On January 14, 2012, in an interview with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiel Schiff accused the Viktor Orbán government of racism, anti-Semitism and neo-fascism, and declared that he would never set foot in Hungary again.1014

In December, 2013, Schiff told an interviewer from the BBC that he had received anonymous threats though the Internet stating that "If I return to Hungary, they will cut off both of my hands. I don't want to risk physical and mental assault." In addition, wrote the interviewer, "Even without that threat, Schiff says he would find it difficult to play in Hungary. Art and politics cannot be disentangled. The audience matters to performers. 'We are not naive,' he says."15


  1. ^ Stephen Moss (14 May 1999). "Bach to the future". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 August 2007. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Vanessa Mock (16 January 2011). "Hungary's artists take fury at media law to Brussels". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 23 January 2011. {{dead link}}
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Lucerne Festival > Ensembles > Cappella Andrea Barca". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Anthony Tommasini, "Complex Bach Is Illuminated", New York Times, 28 October 2012; Retrieved 12 April 2013
  7. ^ "Andras Schiff: the lectures". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ "Royal Academy of Music / Kohn Foundation Bach Prize is awarded to John Butt". Royal Academy of Music. 2010. Retrieved 2013. 
  9. ^ "Wigmore Hall website - 110th anniversary and medal presentation". Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Europa muss endlich Druck machen". Der Tagesspiegel. January 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ Kate Connolly (2000-02-11),Freedom fighters, The Guardian
  12. ^ Andras Schiff (1 January 2011). "Hungary's E.U. role questioned". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  13. ^ András Schiff, Ádám Fischer, András Adorján, Béla Tarr, Ágnes Heller, Géza Komoróczy, László Rajk, Miklós Jancsó (17 January 2001). "An die Künstler in Europa und der ganzen Welt". Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Lebrecht, Norman (January 16, 2012). "Pianist: I Will Never Set Foot in Hungary Again". Retrieved May 8, 2012. 
  15. ^ Tim Franks, "Andras Schiff: Why I won't perform in Hungary," BBC News Magazine, Dec. 22, 2013 |URL=

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