Andreas Staier


March 24, 2019, 4 pm

Music Room

Internationally renowned fortepianist and harpsichordist Andreas Staier worked as the harpsichordist for Musica Antiqua Koln and with other distinguished early music ensembles before embarking on his solo career in 1986. Since then he has toured the world, recording an extensive discography including keyboard and chamber works ranging from Bach and Scarlatti to Schumann and Brahms. For his Phillips Music recital, Staier will perform C. P. E. Bach’s extraordinary Fantasia in F-sharp minor written the year before his death, a work of outlandish dissonance and overwhelming melancholy, following this with one of Haydn’s greatest piano sonatas and his Variations in F minor. The program ends with works by Mozart: the Sonata in F Major K. 533/494 and the endlessly inventive Fantasia in C minor.


Fantasia in F-sharp minor “C. P. E. Bach’s Emfindungen,” H. 300; Wq 67

Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49

Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6


Fantasia in C minor, K. 475

Sonata in F Major, K.533/494         

One of the world’s most prominent performers, Andreas Staier’s indisputable musical mastery has made its mark on the interpretation of baroque, classical and romantic repertoire for period instruments. Acknowledged by his peers and a wider audience, Andreas continues to defend intellectual and artistic standards in both known and neglected works for the keyboard. 

Born in Göttingen, Staier studied modern piano and harpsichord in Hannover and Amsterdam. For three years, he was the harpsichordist of Musica Antiqua Köln with whom he toured and recorded extensively. As a soloist, Staier performs throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia with orchestras such as Concerto Köln, Freiburger Barockorchester, the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, hr Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées Paris, and Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música. On modern piano he performs regularly with orchestras including the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. 

Andreas has been invited to leading international festivals including the Festival de La Roque d’Anthéron, Festival de Saintes, Festival de Montreux, Edinburgh International Festival, York Early Music Festival, Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, Styriarte Graz, Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Schlweswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Bachfest Leipzig, Bach-tage Berlin, Bachwoche Ansbach, and Kissinger Sommer. He has also performed in major venues: Konzerthaus, Wien; Konzerthaus, Philharmonie, Berlin; Kölner Philharmonie; Gewandhaus Leipzig; Alte Oper Frankfurt; Tonhalle Düsseldorf; Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, London; deSingel Antwerp; Concertgebouw Amsterdam; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels; Tonhalle Zürich; Cité de la Musique, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Ircam, Théâtre des Champs – Elysées, Paris; Teatro della Pergola, Florence; Sala Filarmonica, Roma; Toppan Hall, Suntory Hall, Tokyo; Carnegie Hall, Frick Collection, New York; and is regularly invited as a guest soloist by the BBC. 
As a chamber musician Andreas is performing regularly with pianists Alexander Melnikov, Christine Schornsheim, and Tobias Koch, violinists Isabelle Faust and Petra Müllejans, and in a piano trio with violinist Daniel Sepec and cellist Roel Dieltiens. He has also worked with the actresses Senta Berger and Vanessa Redgrave as well as Anne Sofie von Otter, Alexei Lubimov, and Pedro Memelsdorff. In addition, his musical partnership with the tenor Christoph Prégardien produced numerous lieder recordings (Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Brahms), all highly acclaimed by international critics. 

Staier has recorded extensively for BMG, Teldec Classics (with whom he had an exclusive contract for seven years) and harmonia mundi France, the latter since 2003. His catalogue boasts numerous awards including a Diapason d’or for his Am Stein vis-à-vis with Christine Schornsheim (Mozart), the 2002 Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and, in 2011, the Baroque Instrumental Gramophone Award for his CPE Bach concerti recording with the Freiburger Barockorchester. His recording of the “Diabelli Variations” received Diapason d’Or, E/Scherzo, G/Gramophone, 10/10 Classica, and the BBC Music Magazine’s Disc of the Month, and his selection of 17th-century works for harpsichord from both German and French repertoire: ...pour passer la mélancolie, earned him a second Gramophone award in 2013. 

Staier’s latest album presents Schubert’s music for four hands together with Alexander Melnikov, a project which the duo will tour to North and South America in 2020. This recording will be followed by a collection of music inspired by the Iberian Peninsula, together with the Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música in autumn 2018, and two albums of solo works by Beethoven, marking the composer’s 250th anniversary in 2020. Andreas Staier is an Associate Artist at the Opera de Dijon since September 2011 and was resident at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin from September 2017 to July 2018.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Fantasia in F-sharp minor “C.P.E. Bach’s Empfindungen,” H. 300; Wq 67
For many music lovers nowadays, Johann Sebastian tends to be the first personality who comes to mind at the mention of the mighty name of Bach. But this musical dynasty produced more than one genius, and if you time-traveled back to the time of Haydn and Mozart, it was Carl Philipp Emanuel, their older contemporary, not J.S., who was the superstar. “Bach is the father. We are the children!” declared Mozart, referring to C.P.E. Bach, the second surviving son of J.S., who dominated the musical sphere in Protestant Germany and paved the way toward the post-Baroque styles that differed so dramatically from his father’s aesthetic.

Apart from his prolific body of compositions (numbering over 1000 works), C.P.E. Bach also left a lasting mark with his Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, a guide to keyboard technique that was known to Haydn and Beethoven alike. The Essay also serves as a guide to his artistic philosophy, maintaining that “the musician must be able to place himself in the same emotional state as he wishes to arouse in his hearers,” observes the New Grove Dictionary and moreover warning “against mannerisms and exaggerations.” When improvising—as he loved to do for hours, when company came to visit, on a clavichord built by Gottfried Silbermann—C.P.E. Bach impressed observers with his “enraptured” appearance, according to New Grove, and “his playing as a whole was notable for its clarity and cantabile style…”

The keyboard was C.P.E. Bach’s gravitational center from his early years growing up under Johann Sebastian’s tutelage up to the end. The F-sharp minor Fantasia that Andreas Staier has chosen to open his Phillips recital is of very late vintage, dating from 1787 (the year before the composer’s death), during the final Hamburg stage of his career. It epitomizes the genius for originality for which C.P.E. was so widely praised by contemporaries. 

The intensity of emotion found above all in these private compositions—C.P.E. Bach also had a highly public persona as head of church music in Hamburg—has been labeled empfindsamer Stil (“sensitive style”) and was associated with the goal of “authentically” expressing emotions in a natural way, through powerful juxtapositions. Although the genre of the stand-alone “free fantasy” has earlier precedents, the shockingly abrupt mood swings, pauses, and key changes (such radical harmonic thinking!) represented here also anticipate eras well beyond his lifetime—even beyond Romanticism, reaching into the Expressionism of the early 20th century. 

Franz Joseph Haydn: Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49 and Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6
“Whoever knows me thoroughly must discover that I owe a great deal to Emanuel Bach, that I understood him and studied him with diligence,” remarked Haydn—at least according to his early biographer. Haydn, too, was valued as an original musical thinker, and he himself singled out that value in his work. As an employee of the mega-rich Esterházy family, he lived and worked on an isolated palatial estate, for long stretches of the year virtually cut off from the activity of city life. “As head of an orchestra I could try things out … take risks. I was cut off from the world. Nobody in my vicinity could upset my self-confidence or annoy me, and so I had no choice but to become original,” the composer recalled in his later years. 

Haydn pursued his experimental impulse in his solo keyboard music as well. Although he did not develop a dual career as a solo celebrity performer—in contrast to Mozart and Beethoven, who first made their names in Vienna as keyboard virtuosos—Haydn composed at the keyboard, and his catalogue includes a significant number of solo sonatas (the early ones clearly for harpsichord and then, corresponding to its development in Vienna and London, for piano).

The E-flat Major Sonata Hob. XVI: 49, dating from 1789-90, is sometimes known as the “Genzinger” Sonata, in reference to its dedicatee, Maria Anna von Genzinger. She was an amateur pianist and the wife of a society physician who attended to members of the Esterházy family. Haydn developed a close attachment to Genzinger, and their surviving correspondence provides fascinating insights into his daily life. The composer was careful to quash rumors of a love affair, and the relationship was most likely platonic. In a letter in March 1790, he wrote to assure her that this sonata, while technically commissioned by another woman in the Esterházy household (the castle’s new head housekeeper), was specifically for Maria Anna. In another letter, he remarked: “I know that I should have written this sonata for your type of clavier, but it was impossible because I am not at all used to it anymore.”
Notes the musicologist Daniel Heartz, the E-flat Major Sonata “compares well with Haydn’s most ambitious piano trios of 1789-90 in having amply proportioned movements in a pattern of fast, slow, and finale of dance-oriented character.” The opening Allegro demonstrates a characteristic Haydnesque brilliance of invention. The Composer confided to Gerzinger that the Adagio held special significance, “which I shall explain to Your Grace when the occasion permits,” adding that “it is somewhat difficult but full of feeling [Empfindung—the word so closely associated with C.P.E. Bach’s style].” The finale takes the form of a delectably varied minuet (unusually, making this the third movement in a row in triple meter). 

The Variations in F minor (published in 1799) ranks among Haydn’s masterpieces for solo keyboard. He composed it in 1793, the year after his troublesome student Beethoven arrived in Vienna. Haydn had already made the first of his two grand tours to London, where he encountered the very different brand of fortepiano—heavier, richer in sound, not as airy as the Viennese instruments—and he is known to have brought this score with him on his second trip there, though it was not published until 1799. 

The autograph score carries the description “Sonata” for “Signora de Ployer” (i.e., Barbara Ployer, one of the late Mozart’s most promising students), indicating that Haydn may have initially had a multi-movement sonata in mind. Yet the Andante satisfies as a single-movement entity. Haydn’s variation concept here is not the straightforward one of a theme followed by fantasy-like alterations of its main components. Rather, he presents a two-part complex, first in F minor, then in F Major, complementary parts of a whole. This is the double theme, which he subjects in its entirety to two variations. The work has also been linked with the death of his beloved Maria Anna von Genzinger.

The F minor theme makes eloquent use of the rhetorical device of a stuttering dotted note, awakening associations of funereal lamentation, while the decorations of the F Major counterpart transport with a sense of light-filled grace. After writing out the variations, Haydn added an extensive coda of astonishingly imaginative scope.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Fantasia in C minor, K. 475 and Sonata in F Major, K. 533/494         
At the end of 1785, Mozart published his Sonata in C minor, K. 457, in a pairing with the Fantasia, K. 475, in the same key. The two works were written separately; he entered the former in his catalogue on October 14, 1784, the latter on May 20, 1785. These two facts—the independent composition and the joint publication—have resulted in divided opinions as to whether the pieces should be played as a unit, with some (like Alfred Brendel) firmly opposed to the notion, others convinced of its rightness.

In any case, this music anticipates Beethoven in his “C minor mode” and, along with Mozart’s C minor Piano Concerto of 1786, left an indelible mark on the young Beethoven (with echoes to be heard specifically in his C minor Pathétique Sonata, among other works). Alfred Einstein famously observed that K. 457—and he might well have added K. 475—“contributed a great deal towards making Beethovenism possible.” 

The Fantasia conjures an aspect of Mozart the celebrity performer who complemented his interpretations of his concertos with dazzling feats of improvisation. He even introduced such pockets of apparently spontaneous rhapsody (as far as the public was concerned) into the concertos themselves while performing their cadenzas. Yet there is a method to the fantasy, however unusual its form may be in comparison with the Classical standards Mozart himself had perfected. The opening Adagio material returns, in a kind of recapitulation, at the end, following a sequence of fascinating “detours” to changing keys and tempos. Significantly, Mozart decided to do away with conventional key signatures, save for a section in B-flat Major.

The initial unison statement comes to rest on a B natural, so that the “tonal firmness” characteristic of an opening in Classical style “is deliberately weakened and only gradually returns as the piece continues,” notes the pianist and scholar Charles Rosen. “The music has the sound of improvisation and all the advantages of organized form: only in this way could it give such an impression of unity while sounding so rhapsodic.” 

The fact that the Sonata in F Major, K.533/494 has two Köchel catalogue numbers associated with it gives you a clue to its hybrid origin. Here, Mozart stitched together, for the purposes of a new publication, an earlier, stand-alone rondo movement (K. 494) from June 1786 with two fresh movements that he composed in January 1788 to create a full-fledged solo sonata (K. 533). The result is one of Mozart’s finest piano sonatas, written at the height of his powers.

The opening theme of the Allegro is on the long side, though comprising repetitions of patterns. This music dates from the period when Mozart had become increasingly fascinated by the techniques of his Baroque predecessors and thus incorporated contrapuntal textures into his style. Alfred Einstein offered high praise for the “grandeur of harmonic and polyphonic conception” here, along with “a depth of feeling and a harmonic daring such as we find only in his last works.” For the performer, this results in an “even-handed” treatment of the keyboard across its range, requiring great dexterity. 

The Andante stands out rather in the manner of the C minor Fantasia: this is powerfully adventurous music that presses and prods into painful areas (despite the B-flat Major in which the movement is anchored). Here the empfindsamer Stil of C.P.E. Bach continues to live on. We can almost imagine the composer improvising its boldest chromatic swerves and dissonances, yet the music somehow sounds inevitable. When Mozart took up his earlier Rondo to round out the Sonata, he expanded it with a lengthy cadenza. Without knowing its origin from a preceding context, would the careful listener have even noticed the change in style that had since occurred in Mozart’s writing? The rondo unfolds for the most part in the keyboard’s higher registers, which heightens the surprising effect of the rondo theme’s appearance in the bass following the cadenza, at the very end of the Sonata.

Thomas May, 2019