The Well-Tempered Clavier
Book 2: Preludes and Fugues,
Naxos 8.110653-54 [ADD
Born in Basle, Switzerland in 1886, Edwin Fischer was destined to become
one of the most influential pianists of his generation. His own teacher,
Martin Krause, was one of the last pupils of Liszt and later the principal
teacher of Claudio Arrau. Thus Fischer followed a direct line from the great
romantics, a fact which whilst not lost on his own playing, was thoughtfully
distilled into his own distinctive interpretative language.
Amongst his achievements were the formation of his own ensemble, the Edwin
Fischer Chamber Orchestra, with whom he would often programme symphonic works
as well as directing from the keyboard. He frequently worked with the greatest
conductors of the day including Furtwaengler, Nikisch and Mengelberg and
even formed a trio which was later to include Wolfgang Schneiderhan.
From 1931 onwards Fischer commenced a series of recordings for HMV and became
a regular visitor to London where he committed a considerable quantity of
music to disc including Bach, Schubert, Handel and Beethoven's Pathetique
and Appassionata sonatas. He began recording The Well-Tempered Clavier Book
2 in February 1935 although it was not until June of the following year that
the project was finally completed.
What I find most striking about Fischer's playing is his direct style, which
never resorts to fuss or over ornamentation. He allows the music to breath
in a beautifully natural way with the voices always clear and the harmony
transparent. He does take liberties. As Farhan Malik points out in the booklet
note he is not averse to doubling the bass octave where it suits him but
I for one find it hard to object to this when the playing allows so much
detail through. Neither is the playing always faultless, with a number of
minor mishaps along the way. Above all however, these are performances in
the truest sense of the word and there is so much to admire in the articulation,
dynamics and flow of the playing that minor grumbles are easily forgotten.
There are moments when even allowing for the quality of the recording, Fischer's
pianissimo legato is to be marvelled at.
A final word about the restoration of the original recordings. The sound
is of uneven quality at times although this is to be expected. I did find
the ear beginning to tire a little quicker than usual and therefore listening
in shorter sessions paid dividends. Overall however the engineers are to
be congratulated on their removal of excess background noise to an acceptable
standard. It is good to have these valuable recordings available.