In a recent interview with Fred Child on Performance Today, pianist András Schiff spoke about his life-long journey with Bach and his recent recording of The Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 846-93). When asked why he returned to those forty-eight pairs of preludes and fugues, after having recorded them twenty-five years earlier, Schiff offered the following observations:
I have never left The Well-Tempered Clavier . . . and every day of my life, I start with playing Bach, usually a couple of preludes and fugues from this collection, for about an hour . . . many of my friends and I myself notice that I’m playing these pieces, somehow not drastically different from twenty-five years ago, but it’s not the same thing, you see a wider horizon there . . . so it’s a work in progress, and, with the passing of twenty-five years, I noticed that I arrived at the next station . . . and hopefully there will be many more, because as long as I live, and I’m lucky to be in good health, I want to continue to explore the mysteries of this music.
For me, I am still in the middle of my journey . . . there is no way to get to the end of this, it’s too great and it’s too complex . . . there are an incredible number of layers here that you have to discover, you can go deeper and deeper, and it’s very profound.
Somehow from Bach’s music I can only see his humility and modesty . . . very, very important . . . that he has absolutely no ego, this concept of “I” is non-existent in Bach . . . the way I see it, he’s writing it for us.
I would have loved just to have heard him play on the organ and improvise on the organ . . . if I had one wish in life that I could ask for, that would be to hear Bach play the organ.
Bach gives me immense pleasure . . . the joy of freedom, the joy of movement . . . it gives me emotional, intellectual, and physical pleasure, and satisfaction . . . so what more can you ask for?