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Annie Fischer, piano – The Essential Collection = Works of BEETHOVEN, MOZART & LISZT – Hungaroton

Annie Fischer – The Essential Collection = BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp Major Op. 78; Sonata No. 32 in C minor Op. 111; MOZART: Rondo for Piano and Orch. in D major, K382; LISZT: Sonata in B minor, S178 – Annie Fischer, piano/ Budapest Sym. Orch./ Ervin Lukacs – Hungaroton HCD 32730, 74:57 (9/9/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

This single disc retrospective, the third of four albums Hungaroton has released in this Annie Fischer centennial year, presents four works, a fair sample from the extremely wide horizon of Annie Fischer’s art that, though not showcasing the full artistic panorama of this legendary Hungarian pianist, allows nevertheless for a vivid section of her range to be heard. Several composers important to her have not been included on this one disc – among others Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms and Bartók – all of whose works were decisive for her career and all worthy evocations of her art.

Two major recital pieces grace this program: the Beethoven Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 from 1978, and her compatriot Liszt’s B Minor Sonata, from 9 January 1953. Fischer opens with the two-movement 1809 Sonata No. 24 in F-sharp Major, associated with the composer’s affection for Countess Therese von Brunswick. Fischer plays the variations of the Allegro section with fluid resonance, while the active Allegro vivace (rondo) jumps back and forth in contrasting clusters of major and minor modes. The fleet energy of the playing never loses its sense of exalted charm.

The Op. 111 reigned supreme in Fischer’s lexicon of Beethoven explorations, the music’s consummating the sonata form, with its diminished seventh chord opening suddenly generating a host of polyphonic gestures on a colossal scale. Fischer’s ferocity in this first movement seems made of granite, more Richter than Haskil, if comparisons apply. Fischer urges the ascending registers of the progressions with impassioned vehemence, her left hand’s quite stomping the rhythmic pulse. The music seems to touch extremes of feeling and thought at once, as though the staggered melodic tissue were the lees of some drunken, dissolved Dionysian brew. To recount the spiritual evolution of the wonderful aria theme of the extended Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile merely alerts us to Beethoven’s limitless keyboard palette, which embraces much of Bach and infinite creative impulses open to the future. Fischer pushes far into the interior of this ornamental labyrinth with seamless gusto, if not outright, celestial abandon. The tone clusters alternately sing, dance, and accumulate in stratified harmony worthy of a Gaudi cathedral.

The 1782 Mozart Rondo collaboration (5 April 1965) with Ervin Lukacs in Budapest shimmers with pepper and paprika; the energy proves infectious. Mozart conceived the piece as an alternate finale for his Concerto in D, K. 175, but most keyboard players – Edwin Fischer would be a prime example – prefer to savor its brilliant witticisms as an independent composition.

If auditors wish to consider the massive Liszt 1853 Sonata in B Minor as Beethoven’s “Thirty-Third,” so be it.  Annie Fischer’s spectacularly broad reading would seem to attach a dramatic-lyrical program to this monument: likely the Faust-Mephisto-Gretchen triangle. The evolving nexus of ecstatic tumult and poetic musing progresses naturally, the voluptuous aggression poised and lovingly etched. The agility and flexibility of her trill alone warrants notice; but add to Fischer’s versatile arsenal the power of her bass tones and block chords – ominous and beatific, respectively – and the effect has been staggering, certainly on a par with our revered interpretations by Cziffra, Richter, and Horowitz.

—Gary Lemco

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