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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op. 13 Pathétique (1797-8) [16:32]
Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major op. 78 (1809) [7:08]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major, K332 (K300) (1781-1783) [13:26]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Chaconne in G Major, HWV 435 (by 1733) [6:46]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus, D.935 (1827): No.1 in F minor [9:05]: No.2 in A flat major [6:43]: No.4 in F minor [5:22]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Fifteen Peasant Songs, Sz.71 (1914-17) [14:14]
Annie Fischer (piano)
rec. February 1957, Frankfurt, Hessischer Rundfunk (Beethoven Op.13 and Mozart) and January 1959, Paris Studio 107, Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (remainder)
MELOCLASSIC MC1016 [79:20]

Parts of two recitals form this disc, which presents the art of Annie Fischer to be savoured in the year of the centenary of her birth. Warner and Hungaroton have recently released sets devoted to her art and live broadcast material emerges further to celebrate her compelling musicianship.

The earlier of the recitals represented here was given in Frankfurt in February 1957. Two sonatas are involved. A recording of Beethoven’s Pathétique is in the complete cycle that was issued by Hungaroton posthumously. Her well-known EMI Classics recording has recently been reissued in the box cited above [Warner 2564 63412-3]. This Frankfurt broadcast performance is faster in the opening movement than the EMI, which was recorded in October 1958, and is played in a crisp, rhythmically incisive way. The slow movement is warmly textured, though the studio EMI is tonally warmer still with a greater visceral immediacy in the bass. Stirring and powerful, the finale caps a reading of immense perception and digital authority. Mozart’s sonata in F major, K332 has a spontaneous-sounding quality that vests it with a fresh appeal.

Those expecting circumspect qualities in her reading of Handel’s Chaconne in G major – taken from the January 1959 recital in Paris – will be in for a shock. This is, instead, grandeur personified, a leonine performance, with flexibility but great power too, and a truly splendid climax. It’s stirring all the way through its seven-minute length. You can watch her play it in another performance on a Doremi DVD. Beethoven’s Op.78 sonata is a touch faster than her 1958 studio inscription for EMI with a slightly greater phrasal pliancy and a higher degree of excitement in her playing. The contours remain familiar, but as so often in live broadcasts or concert performances, there is a definable increment in communicative intensity. She plays three of the four Schubert Impromptus, D.935 in this same recital. She returned to these works throughout her performing life. Live concert performances of all four exist on Hungaroton and two of the four are in the Warner box. The F minor is beautifully voiced and fully expressive, whilst the second is a touch more risk-taking than the slightly later 1960 EMI studio recording. Crisp and equally successful is the fourth, again significantly faster than the studio inscription. It shows how susceptible she was to the tensions and excitements of live performance, and also amplifies just what a self-critical and meticulous artist she could be in the studio. She finishes with Bartók’s Hungarian Peasant Songs, in which she finds a myriad of colours and textures – infinitely lively.

Both recitals are well recorded and have been served very well here in performances that are far more than mere adjuncts to Annie Fischer’s commercial legacy.

Jonathan Woolf