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Andreas Haefliger: perspectives I
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Piano Sonata in A minor, D537 (1817) [20’54].
Thomas ADÈS (b. 1971)

Darknesse Visible (1992) [6’59].
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Sonata No. 17 in B flat, D570 (1789) [16’26].
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 (1822) [26’03].
Andreas Haefliger (piano).
Rec. Reitstadel-Neumarkt/Oberpfalz, Germany, 17-19 October 2003. DDD
AVIE AV0041 [70’52]


Interesting to be able to assess the latest offering from Andreas Haefliger in the light of interviewing him .

So here we have a CD called ‘Perspectives I’ - by implication there will be a sequel. And that is to be welcomed. Haefliger has experimented with various juxtapositions of composers in live performance, and this disc represents a fruit of his endeavours. Pianists who embrace the music of our time while basing their core repertoire firmly in the masterworks of Western music are to be welcomed. In a repertoire sense, this approach tends to be so effective because the older musics (Baroque, Classical etc) act in a symbiotic relationship with the harder-edged and/or more elusive music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The knowledge of the one feeds and illuminates the other. And it is this very reciprocity that enables the present programme to work so well.

Programming in this way is in itself an art. Haefliger’s disc is brave. Schubert’s piano sonatas present huge problems and, indeed, reveal their secrets to a select few; the last of Beethoven’s almighty canon requires the conjuration of the highest profundities; Adès poses all of the problems a present-day superpianist/composer has as his right to hoist on an unsuspecting interpreter; And Mozart is … well, Mozart.

The disc starts with Schubert, D537 of 1817 (a sonata that had to wait until 1852 for first publication). Haefliger’s Schubert is a muscular beast (at least in the first movement of the three), yet let this not imply any insensitivity. Haefliger is as responsive to Schubert’s characteristic harmonic shifts as the best of them (or almost, less so than Mitsuko Uchida in this repertoire, perhaps), and he understands Schubert’s faux-naïf world in the Allegretto quasi andantino to a tee. The only fly in the ointment seems to be a slight tendency towards heavy-handedness in the finale.

Adès immediately post-Schubert may seem on paper a huge leap, but actually there is an undercurrent of lyricism (analogous to that which underlies Schubert) to Darknesse Visible. Premièred in Budapest in October 1992, Adès sees his piece as an explosion of John Dowland’s lute song, In Darknesse let me Dwell of 1610: ‘ … no notes have been added; indeed, some have been removed’, and the latent patterns of the original ‘have been isolated and regrouped, with the aim of illuminating the song from within’. This complex work ends with a final appearance of the Dowland, which Haefliger presents in the most touching of ways. This nine-minute work alone justifies the price of the disc. Of course Adès himself is the work’s most sympathetic interpreter, but Haefliger is entirely his own man. Interestingly, another Schubertian, Imogen Cooper, holds this piece in her repertoire (a very lyrical live performance heard on Radio 3 - from I believe the Cheltenham Festival - remains lodged in this reviewer’s mind).

Certainly the Mozart emerges as aural balm after the Adès, the penultimate Sonata supplementing Haefliger’s extant Mozart disc on AVIE. Haefliger’s playing is clean and neat yet, when called for, exciting. His Adagio is delicate; perhaps his finale is delicate to a fault, though?.

Brave is the pianist who tackles the final chapter of any pianist’s Bible, Beethoven’s Op. 111. Perhaps surprisingly for a disc as daring as this, the opening’s descending interval is on the careful side; the left-hand octaves later appear a little light. A sense of the transcendent greatness of this work is largely missing, and the Arietta, whilst leaving the human plane, does not quite make it all the way to Heaven.

Within the context of this disc this Op. 111 nevertheless works as a thought-provoking climax to a fascinating 71 minutes’ worth of listening. Markus Heilan’s recording is true, vivid and spacious. Recommended.

Colin Clarke

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