The great Hungarian pianist András Schiff returns to Benaroya Hall to perform J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” a keyboard masterpiece he so reveres that he’s recorded it twice. The most recent was a live recording released in 2003 that fuses deep eccentricity with startling insight.
Schiff’s latest project is Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations,” which he also recorded twice for a new 2-CD set on ECM New Series: once on a Bechstein piano built in 1921, and again on a Franz Brodmann fortepiano from circa 1820.
The fortepiano’s sound — with its slight harpsichord-buzz layered over strong percussive notes — is what listeners would have heard in Beethoven’s day. In his liner notes Schiff enthuses, “On it the music sounds fresher, bolder and infinitely more subtle.”
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Some might argue with that, but kudos to Schiff for offering the period-authentic version alongside his modern-piano recording. Schiff performs the “Goldberg Variations” at 8 p.m. Friday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $19-$112 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times arts writer