Venue: National Concert Hall, Taipei
Performers: Andreas Staier (piano)
Selected pieces from Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
J. S. Bach: French Suite No. 5 in G, BWV 816 - Sarabande (cf. Rousset (at 5:24), Schiff)
This is Andreas Staier's first visit to Taiwan and my first concert with Staier while "vacationing" in Taiwan, so I was anxious to learn about it. Unfortunately, it was hard to guess what was to happen from the scanty information provided by Blooming Arts. The only thing I was relatively sure was the instrument would be the fortepiano. After all, I know of no recital or recording by Staier on any modern piano. Personally, I was impressed by Blooming Arts for inviting Staier and curious about the trouble it must have gone through to locate a fine fortepiano for the occasion, knowing that while a fine harpsichord is available locally, a fortepiano might not.... -- How wrong I was!
Staier performed on Monday 11/21 and Wednesday 11/23, and I only attended Wednesday concert. An unfortunate decision was made to perform both recitals on Steinway Concert Grand Model D, provided by the National Concert Hall, likely due to availability. Staier opened the Wednesday recital with selected pieces from Schumann's Album for the Young. His tone was round and beautiful, with quite a heavy dose of sustain pedal and sometimes sostenuto one. At first it was quite enjoyable, but very quickly the relative shortage of tone palettes started to show and sonic fatigue set in. This was a striking contrast with the richness of his fortepiano recordings. Listen, for example, to his own performance on fortepiano of Schubert's B-flat major sonata, and the difference is almost like day and night. Schubert's infinite tonal meandering, especially in the second movement, produced much more striking effects there. This phenomenon really drained part of enjoyment from this recital, and I was expecting a lot for it. (Not unreasonably, I think, given what I heard from his recordings.) Why, may I ask, that we have to have Staier flying hundreds of miles only to perform on the instrument he is perhaps not entirely comfortable with?
Staier's encore piece of Sarabande from Bach's French Suite No. 5 was exquisite, even on the Steinway. By the way, Staier performed all pieces with sheet music but without page turner.
My heart was heavy after the recital. I don't know about the Monday recital, but the Wednesday one was very poorly attended, only about a quarter of designated seats (excluding the 4th floor) were occupied. With disappointing attendance and wrong choice of instrument, I am afraid the Taiwanese audience will not have the second chance of Staier, now at 60. Hopefully, the next time a more sensitive organization, like the Taiwan Early Music Society, will take charge of such events. By the way, I look forward to the concert they sponsored in a few days.