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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Andante and Variations in F minor, Hob.XVII:6 (1793) [8’40].
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2, ‘Moonlight’ [14’44]. 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor, WoO80 [11’15].
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-49)
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 [7’20].
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Dances of Marossék (1923-9) [12’24].
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K457 [19’38].
Annie Fischer (piano).
Rec. BBC Studios, London, on November 2nd, 1958 (Haydn; Beethooven Sonata), May 19th, 1963 (Beethoven Variations; Kodály) and February 24th, 1971 (Mozart). ADD
BBC LEGENDS BBCL4166-2 [74’23]


 

A magnificent testimony to the often sublime artistry of Annie Fischer. Caught here in the studio, these recordings (spanning thirteen years) remind us of Fischer’s innate musicality, her respect for the composers she chose to present, and above all her artistic integrity.

The Haydn (actually a set of double variations, with the F minor theme alternating with an F major one) is an object lesson in poise. Her touch is pearly - especially the repeated notes - textures are light and flourishes and trills are full of fantasy. Listen to the decoration at around 4’45 which in many other hands would emerge as finicky – here it is so neatly and convincingly done. Yet there is drama here too as the F minor key signature might imply.

The first Beethoven work is the famous Op. 27 No. 2. The first movement carries all the effectiveness of a refusal to sentimentalise. Clarity, unhurried flow and structural integrity go hand-in-hand to memorable effect. Fischer’s touch in the middle Allegretto is gorgeous. The timbral subtleties are excellently carried by the recording, with only slight – and undistracting – hiss. The finale is exciting - with some wrong notes - and rises to true drama in its later stages.

Accuracy is similarly in second place in the Chopin Third Scherzo’s rapid-fire octaves, but the convincing contrasts between the sections more than make up for this. The famous cascades of notes are never merely decorative, but an integral part of the ongoing argument. Chords have great depth and, indeed, Fischer is at her best in the nightmarish harmonic shifts. A pity, then, that the coda tends towards the careful. Caution is introduced to the wind without actually being thrown anywhere, one might say.

Great to see the Beethoven C minor Variations here, its craggy theme providing the imposing starting point for a tour-de-force, both compositionally and pianistically. Fischer’s repeated notes are superbly articulated, her use of pedal clearly very considered. Most importantly, taken as a whole this piece makes complete structural sense, textural contrasts having a clear place in the overall scheme, leading to a tremendous climax at around 9’40. Superb.

But not as superb as the Kodály. Here Fischer is on home ground. The piano version predates the orchestral version, and Fischer treats it as if it could never be elsewhere than at the keyboard. The sense of national identification is tremendous, right from the hugely sonorous opening. And the music actually does dance, exploding into infectious joy.

The Mozart that concludes the recital is perhaps less dramatic-confrontational than some, true, but just listen to Fischer’s treatment o the development’s harmonic surprises for evidence of her Mozartian affinity.

The slow movement becomes a supreme place of rest, magnificent in its simplicity, awe-inspiring in its sense of breadth. The finale is almost orchestral at times. It is impossible not to get swept away by Fischer’s playing, in any of the works on this disc. Possibly she is at her greatest in the Kodály and the Mozart, but without doubt Fischer’s many admirers will find much to enthral throughout.

Unhesitatingly recommended.

Colin Clarke

 



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