Though it would be hard to pick out Schiff's best recording of Bach, this might well it. Even Angela Hewitt's excellent recent recording on Hyperion notwithstanding, one could scarcely imagine the French Suites ever being played with more drive, gusto and tenderness. Under Schiff's fingers, Bach's movements truly begin to dance. The Italian Concerto and the magnificent French Ouverture are also given first-class performances.
One can never impugn Andras Schiff’s sanity. Bad haircuts aside (he’s a forerunner of Krusty the Clown), he’s a nice guy. He never jaywalks. Clean underpants are his. I met him once; even his sweat is inoffensive. I don’t buy the package. There must be more to him than this veneer of vanilla. Away from the lights of concert halls, could he be the CIA “black-on-black” contract-killer for South America where he communes with the ghosts of Pinochet and Stroessner before exacting vengeance upon enemies of the Republic? Or perhaps he stalks the alleyways of Gotham City in a latex suit (replete with codpiece) as Captain Counterpoint, enemy of all things melodic? Worse still, rumour has it that Schiff is a white slaver who sells failed boy-bands to the latter-day Fu Manchus of Hong Kong in return for pearls of the deep and a plate of lemon chicken. Nothing is beyond him.
You won’t find answers here in this hideously boring survey of the French Suites which I have owned since 1994. In all honesty, I cannot bring myself to look at the cover. Selling it to Shylock at the second-hand store would entail handling it – I cannot countenance such a risk without a hazmat suit. Some defeats are so final, so Cannae-like, that one longs for oblivion as the ultimate eraser. Perhaps things would've been different if Bobby Kennedy had not walked through that kitchen. Who is to say?