Edwin Fischer - Piano Playing from the Heart

CD 1 [70:57]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto No.1 in D Minor, BWV 1052 [21:25]
Keyboard Concerto in A BWV1055 [14:36]
Keyboard Concerto in F minor BWV1056 [10:18]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D BWV1050 [24:07]
CD 2 [76:53]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F BWV 1047 [12:53]
Concerto in C for 3 keyboards, BWV106 [18:56]
Harpsichord Concerto in E BWV1053 [20:46]
Fantasia in C minor BWV906 [4:09]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV904 [7:35]
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV903 [12:06]
CD 3 [79:30]
Das wohltemperierte Klavier [Book I]
CD 4 [78:55]
Das wohltemperierte Klavier [Book I]
Das wohltemperierte Klavier [Book II]
CD 5 [79:26]
Das wohltemperierte Klavier [Book II]
CD 6 [67:21]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G K453 [24:50]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 [29:32]
Piano Sonata No. 10 in C K330 [12:01]
CD 7 [78:05]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat K482 [31:57]
Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor K491 [27:58]
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A K331 [14:20]
CD 8 [63:57]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C K503 [30:30]
Rondo in D K382 [7:19]
Fantasia in C minor K396 [7:44]
Fantasia in C minor K475 [11:06]
Romanze in A flat K Anh205 [3:44]
Minuet in G K1/1e (arr. E. Fischer) [2:44]
CD 9 [77:54]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat Op.73 ‘Emperor’ [38:59]
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op.13 ‘Pathetique’ [17:46]
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’ [20:51]
CD 10 [68:43]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op.37 [35:21]
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op.58 [33:10]
CD 11 [78:38]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus, D.899 No. 1 in C minor [8:30]: No. 2 in E flat major [4:19]; No. 3 in G Flat major [5:03]; No. 4 in A flat major [7:34]
Impromptus, D.935 No. 1 in C minor [8:40]; No. 2 in A flat major [4:48]; No. 3 in B flat major [9:34]; No. 4 in F minor [4:58]
Moments musicaux D780 No. 1 in C [4:29]; No. 2 in A flat [6:09]; No. 3 in F minor [1:41]; No. 4 in C sharp minor [4:18]; No. 5 in F minor [1:16]; No. 6 in A flat [6:36];
CD 12 [59:09]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op.83 [47:46]
Wilhelm FURTWÄNGLER (1886-1954)
Adagio - Sehr langsam: Symphonic Concerto in B [11:09]
Edwin Fischer (piano)
Gareth Morris (flute), Manoug Parikian (violin); Raymond Clark (cello), Harold Jackson (trumpet); Sidney Sutcliffe (oboe); Geraint Jones (harpsichord)
Edwin Fischer, Ronald Smith, Denis Matthews (pianos)
Edwin Fischer Chamber Orchestra/Edwin Fischer (Bach Keyboard Concertos)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Edwin Fischer (Brandenburg Concertos, and Concerto for three keyboards, Beethoven Concertos Nos 3 and 4)
Chamber Orchestra/Edwin Fischer (Mozart K453)
LPO/Edwin Fischer (Mozart K466)
Barbirolli Chamber Orchestra/John Barbirolli (Mozart K482)
LPO/Lawrence Collingwood (Mozart K491)
Philharmonia Orchestra /Josef Krips (Mozart K503)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Beethoven Emperor Concerto)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler (Brahms Concerto, Furtwängler)
rec. 1931-54
EMI CLASSICS ICON 6 29499 2 [12 CDs: 70:57 + 76:53 + 79:30 + 78:55 + 79:26 + 67:21 + 78:05 + 63:57 + 77:54 + 68:43 + 78:38 + 59:09]

The latest of EMI’s ‘Icon’ series to reach me is this 12 CD set devoted to Edwin Fischer. It bears the subtitle ‘Piano Playing from the Heart’ which rather puts me in mind of Semprini, but that apart - Piano Playing from the Bowels, anyone? - all is well.

I’ve sampled throughout these discs, and will just note some highlights. Fischer’s Bach is still a marker. In the first disc we have the Keyboard concertos. There is sufficient metrical variety to keep things moving and of course the slow movements are nobly contrived, not least in the slow movement of the D minor or the wonderfully touching F minor. The eloquent string terracing in the Larghetto of the concerto in A attests to the rapport he had generated with his own Chamber Orchestra in these Berlin recordings of 1933-38. The first disc ends with the fifth Brandenburg Concerto, from the 1952 Philharmonia set and the second disc opens with the second concerto. The concerto for three keyboards is the familiar recording with Ronald Smith and Denis Matthews. If you’ve not come across the 1949 Fantasia in C minor recording make its acquaintance; so too the 1937 Fantasia and Fugue in A minor. Inevitably, and rightly, three discs are given over to Fischer’s Well Tempered Clavier set which was recorded in London between 1933 and 1936.

Disc six gives us Mozart. The concertos are a mix of self-directed and conducted by a series of colleagues with whom he seemed to get on, more or less. Despite being colleagues in their earlier days, I was interested to read a letter that Adolf Busch wrote to his brother Fritz in which he said he’d been listening to Fischer’s recording of the K491 concerto and found it ‘dilettantish’. This was recorded in London in 1937 with Lawrence Collingwood on the rostrum. It doesn’t sound so to me, though Busch had an axe to grind, and had been opposed to the Fischer-Furtwängler axis since the 1920s. It was Barbirolli who said, after the war, that he never knew when to bring the orchestra in after one of Fischer’s cadenzas. You can hear Barbirolli, pre-war, with his own chamber orchestra manfully accompanying in the E flat K482 and providing a plush string carpet. Josef Krips provides staunch support in a 1947 recording of the concerto in C, K503.

Discs nine and ten are devoted to Beethoven. We have concertos 3, 4 and 5. The former two are self directed, the Emperor with Furtwängler. The orchestra is the Philharmonia. These are amongst the best known of Fischer’s recordings, humane, powerful, well balanced, and often transferred - indeed the fifth concerto has recently been transferred by Naxos [8.112025]. Given the relative ubiquity of these recordings perhaps one should be directed to the sonata performances as well, as one should to the Mozart sonata performances in this set as well - of which there are two and some miscellaneous pieces. The Beethoven sonatas are the Pathétique and Appassionata (both 1952).

Fine though these are, they are, for me, rather eclipsed by the Schubert recordings enshrined in disc eleven, recordings of the two Impromptu sets from 1938 and the Moments Musicaux from 1950. Magnificently encompassing and all-embracing no Fischer collection should be without them. As ever, if there any finger slips they are trivial when set against so much insight and imagination. The final disc serves up the famous wartime Brahms Second Concerto performance of 1942, a mighty, tempestuous and expansive affair given added impetus by the conductor whose wartime inscriptions were invariably tinged with a piercing intensity. The coupling here is Furtwängler’s own Symphonic Concerto.

Fischer first recorded in 1928 for Electrola but nothing was released from these sessions. His first concerto performance was Mozart’s K466 with Jochum but it too was not issued and was remade with the London Philharmonic, Fischer directing. So this set concentrates on concerto and solo performances, and specifically avoids those occasions when Fischer acted solely as a conductor - for example in Haydn - or as a duo collaborator (with Gioconda de Vito) or with his piano trio with Schneiderhan and Mainardi.

There’s a fine booklet essay by Stephen Plaistow to read, and a vast amount of music to which to listen, and to treasure.

Jonathan Woolf

A vast amount of music to which to listen, and to treasure.