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Perspectives 2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonatas: No. 22 in F, Op. 54 (1804) [11'41]; No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 (1814) [13'30].
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1956)
Out of Doors Suite, Sz81 (1926) [15'46].
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5 (1853) [40'29].
Andreas Haefliger (piano)
rec. Reitstadel-Neumarkt, Germany, 24-27 May 2005. DDD
AVIE AV 2082 [41'17 + 40'31]

Sequels, somewhat notoriously, rarely live up to the promise of the original. Here, for once, is the exception. In Perspectives 1, a brave mix of Beethoven, Adès, Schubert and Mozart (review ), it was Beethoven's Op. 111 that impressed the least. Perhaps it was overly ambitious to put the last sonata of the 32 on the first disc. Opp. 54 and 90, here, find Haefliger in much more responsive mood.

The first movement of Op. 54 is built on contrast, between the almost Schubertian lyricism of the opening figure and the more menacing bare octaves - I believe Brendel referred to these as 'beauty and the beast', although I stand to be corrected. Haefliger seems almost to over-beautify the opening figure to enhance the contrast - a quite acceptable strategy. The moto perpetuo finale is very much 'his thing', light and imbued with an apposite sense of inevitably.

Some Bartók is sandwiched in between the two Beethovens. Out of Doors has its first movement ('With drums and pipes') finding its affinities with the Allegro barbaro, yet Haefliger never bangs the piano. There is a dance-like basis to all of this. The calm of the 'Barcarolla' gives way to the playful 'Musette', but it is the Night Music of the fourth movement that finds this pianist at his finest. There is breathtaking concentration here. The finale is an apt tonic, energetic and with abandon yet, as the studio conditions would imply, mightily accurate.

Beethoven's E minor Sonata, Op. 90 is an inspired work to follow. Haefliger seems to deliberately warm his tone to ensure maximum post-Bartókian contrast. Interestingly, he is unafraid to verge on the martellato later to ensure contrasts within the movement, before melting into welcome lyricism. His legato touch is shown off in a finale that flows magnificently.

Better than all of this, though, is the mighty Brahms F minor Sonata. The very opening requires great chordal command as well as great Romantic swagger. It turns out that Haefliger has both in spades - the swagger returns most obviously in the Scherzo. The contrast to the work's opening gestures seethes in most Brahmsian fashion, the recording capturing the warmth of the pianist's tone to perfection. The real storm clouds of the development are memorable.

Delicacy is the watchword of Haefliger's 'Andante espressivo', where he really seems to commune with the great composer. Note also how he maintains an admirable legato at levels of forte and above. But if there is one movement that surpasses the rest it is the Intermezzo fourth movement, its lonely, fragmented world projected in playing of great maturity.

It is interesting to track Haefliger's career. On the present evidence this is a career that is moving from strength to strength. By providing essentially a recital experience on CD, the strength of comparisons with other pianists' recordings of individual works is weakened. Well worth investigating.

Colin Clarke
Sequels rarely live up to the promise of the original. Here, for once, is the exception ... Haefliger's is a career that is moving from strength to strength. ... see Full Review



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