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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D, Op. 10/3 (1797/98) [22:33];
Piano Sonata No. 16 in G, Op. 31/3 (1802) [20:18]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval (1834) [25:24]
Annie Fischer (piano)
rec. BBC Studios, London, 19 May 1963 (Schumann); 11 November, 1987 (Beethoven). ADD
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4199-2 [70:45]



Recordings by Annie Fischer are always revelatory and to be cherished. I caught her once live in recital – and a very beautiful occasion it was, too. This BBC Legends disc acts as a timely reminder of her stature.
 
The Beethoven sonatas are the most musically valuable part of the disc. That is not to say that Schumann's Carnaval is not without its high points. Those who despise wrong notes may wish to head straight for the sonatas, though. There are points of splashiness - it is live, after all. Fischer is clearly determined to project her interpretation come what may, but there are moments of great play, too ('Arlequin') as well as true intimacy and these can spill at a moment's notice into muscle-flexing rhetoric. The quasi-improvised 'Eusebius' is one of many moments of magic, and Fischer ensures that the ensuing 'Florestan' blazes in due contrast. Her letters dance cheekily, while the Presto of 'Pantalon' is given with a Bach-like toccata touch. It‘s anything goes for the hell-for-leather Presto of 'Paganini', but whether the final peroration of the 'Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins' has a truly climactic effect is debatable.
 
Fischer is more human than Jorge Bolet on Decca - one of my benchmarks in this work. She is infinitely more inside the music than Aimard on Warner Classics but one has to contend with the occasional snowstorm of wrong notes and playing the cracks. The recorded sound is fine if a trifle thin and occasionally threatens to distort without actually doing so. There is enough here, though, to make me want to hear Fischer, live again but this time in Montreal in 1984, on Palexa 514.
 
The Beethoven Op. 10 sonata heard here is given a serious performance, but an affectionate one. The Presto is no headlong rush, but has a real grace and attendant dignity. The Largo e mesto second movement is one of Beethoven's most profound utterances of any of his three periods. Fischer finds just the right intensity at a speed that nevertheless allows for flow. Sforzandi make emotional points without any forcing of tone. The third movement does not quite emerge seamlessly from the final repeated low Ds of the Largo; just a touch awkward. Yet the finale is replete with humour as well as a definite exploratory bent.
 
Fischer finds humour, too, in the first movement of Op. 31/1. Her fleet fingers have no problems with the tricky semiquaver articulations. It is the Adagio grazioso slow movement that is the highlight with some miraculous, bejewelled right-hand decorations. At around 4:57 there is the most wonderful pedal-free effect that is guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone's face. The finale, too, is easy-going, ambling its way reassuringly along.
 
Buy this for the Beethoven, in particular, and enjoy the Schumann for what it is – a live performance in which Fischer let go of inhibitions, no matter what the consequences.
 
Colin Clarke
 



 


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