Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART 1756-1791

Fantasia in C minor, K475 (1785) [13:18]
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K457 (1784) [22.41]
Robert SCHUMANN 1810-1856
Fantasy in C major, Op. 17 (1836, rev. 1839) [31.56]
Theme and Variations in E flat major, Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations) WoO 24 (1854) [12.27]
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
rec. 12/13 July 2006 (Mozart), 30 April/1 June 2013 (Fantasy), 2 May 2015, 30 October 2016 (Variations) Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, Poland
Bonus DVD: Je m’appelle Varsovie (Warsaw is my name) a film by Piotr Anderszewski - Directed by Piotr Anderszewski with the collaboration of Julien Condemine [36.21]
DVD sound format: LPCM Stereo 2.0, 48kHz/16 bit
WARNER CLASSICS 9029588855 [79.14]

With this new Warner Classics release, Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski finds inspiration with Fantasias from Mozart and Schumann. It’s a commanding album with Anderszewski demonstrating quite remarkable pianism in four of the finest works written for the instrument.

Both written in 1785 whilst enjoying the gains of living in Vienna, Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor was published by Artaria jointly with the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor as his opus 11. The score is sometimes seen as a prelude to the C minor Sonata. In Anderszewski’s hands the single movement Fantasia makes quite an impression. Immediately the soloist creates a feeling of mystery. It’s a powerful work of quickly switching moods, shot through with an undercurrent of anguish. With the C minor Sonata following on from the Fantasia almost immediately, without a distinct break, the two works feel effectively joined together.

The companion work, the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor bears a dedication on the front page to Therese von Trattner, a talented young pianist, married to a music publisher. Clearly relishing the C minor Sonata Anderszewski is in striking form. Bringing an unsettling severity to the Allegro, he creates a meltingly tender Adagio along with an upbeat and robust Finale: Molto Allegro, which is full of incident.
A key work of the early Romantic period Schumann’s Fantasy in C major written in 1836 was later revised in 1839. A masterpiece of the piano repertory, Liszt was moved to describe the work as “marvellous and magnificent” but it came at a time of emotional distress for Schumann who was enduring enforced separation from his future wife Clara. A work that is often described as a lament for his parting from Clara, the Fantasy does feel like a love letter in music, penetrating considerable emotional depths and revealing an undertow of vulnerability. From the first note to the last Anderszewski’s playing is as poetically engaging as I can imagine. This is stylish and expressive playing from Anderszewski of vitality, striking for its clean articulation and broad yet sensible use of dynamics.

The concluding work on the album is Schumann’s last work to be completed, the Theme and Variations known as Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations). Schumann revealed that he heard angelic voices singing a heavenly melody to him that compelled him to write a set of variations on this ‘angelic’ theme. Composed in 1854 the tormented Schumann was working on the piece during the time of his suicide attempt in the freezing river Rhine. The E flat major score was finally completed while the composer was confined in the mental asylum where he was to die a couple of years later. It was posthumously published in 1939. The remarkable purity of tone achieved by Anderszewski is striking, which makes it feel as though he is communicating directly with the listener.

Taking place at four sessions during a ten-year period at Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw the recording is a credit to the engineering team, providing clarity, presence and a satisfyingly balance. The booklet essay and the short note by Anderszewski are both helpful and interesting.

Forming a further part of the release is a thirty-six minute bonus DVD titled Je m’appelle Varsovie (Warsaw is my name) which has been filmed and directed by Warsaw born Anderszewski in collaboration with Julien Condemine. It’s an attractively shot collage in vivid colour of Warsaw city scenes accompanied by Anderszewski playing solo piano extracts from Chopin, Szymanowski and Webern.

With playing of such elevated musicianship Anderszewski is in remarkable form providing a recital of a very special quality for Warner.

Michael Cookson

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