Geza Anda – The Telefunken Recordings = SCHUMANN: Carnaval; Symphonic Etudes; BACH: Partita No. 2 in c minor; HAYDN: Piano Sonata No. 23; MOZART: Piano Sonata in D – Geza Anda, p. – Audite

Geza Anda – The Telefunken Recordings = SCHUMANN: Carnaval, Op. 9; Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13; BACH: Partita No. 2 in c minor, BWV 826; HAYDN: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Major; MOZART: Piano Sonata in D Major, K. 576 – Geza Anda, p. – Audite 95.720, 87:21 (6/9/15) [Distr. by Naxos] ****: 

Called “the troubadour of the piano” by conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Hungarian virtuoso Geza Anda (1921-1976) evolved into that splendid aesthetic incarnation that fulfilled Teodor Leschetizky’s advice to Artur Schnabel – in paraphrase: “You are a rather a musician than a pianist.”  Geza Anda, after having made a series of early “firebrand” recordings for Polydor in Berlin and Amsterdam, served the Telefunken label for two years, 1950-1951, in Berlin, of which the present Schumann readings (27 November 1950), Haydn and Mozart (23 May 1951), and Bach (19 September 1951) originally appeared on shellacs.  All but the Bach Partita – existing only in a shellac incarnation –  Audite takes from vinyl pressings of 1954, the CD versions having been made possible through the auspices of Hortense Anda-Buehrie, the pianist’s widow and president of the Geza Anda Foundation, Zurich.

Anda’s Carnaval presents a fascinating mixture of striking bravura and sometimes detached objectivity in his playing. While studying in Paris, Anda had received guidance from Russian émigré Pyotr Souvtchinsky, whose aesthetic influences – a balance of spontaneity and intellectual control – shape the reading of the Schumann suite, an amalgam of the composer’s literary, artistic, and psychological personae.  Eusebius, for instance, receives slow and arched character, rife with the innigkeit requisite of the Schumann ethos. So, too, Florestan proceeds in fits and starts, gathering vivid momentum, only to dissolve into diaphanous irony. We might accuse both Coquette and Replique of French “mannerism,” unless we grant the Commedia dell’arte its idiosyncratic due.

Despite some surface hiss, Chiarina dances before us with romantic passion.  Chopin sings a pure nocturne, whose repeat becomes all veils and lunar mist. The Reconnaissance episode plays as a skittish duet.  Alternate, frenzied staccato and legato notes present the two clown-figures, Pantalon et Colombine, who do share an amorous moment.  A militant affect permeates the Valse allemande, only to yield to the fierce bariolage of Paganini, rising to a blistering stretto.  Anda’s Aveu has a touch of desperation about it . The Vienna waltz impulse returns to haunt Schumann’s Promenade, with some hearty bass tones from Anda.  The Schumann sarcasm marks his so-called Pause, only to hurtle us into the culminating Marche des Davidsbuendler contre les Philistins.  Whether Schumann or not meant to answer the famous Berlioz March to the Scaffold, Anda certainly reaches for a degree of manic retrospection as energies from prior characters flash by, all of whom have become warring “butterflies.”  The pages constitute a rush to judgment by an imaginative standard.

The 1837 Etudes symphoniques have received any number of interpretations, with a select few pianists’ incorporating the posthumous studies – salvaged by Brahms in 1873 – into the contrapuntal mix. Anda opts for the insertion of the two of the five – Nos. IV and V – after Etude VI and Etude VII.  The original theme in C-sharp Minor traverses a series of colorful transformations, some of which fall easily into Schumann’s maerchen category of fantasy-congress after Jean-Paul Richter and E.T.A. Hoffmann. The thundering, almost Brahmsian Etude VI (Agitato) yields to the first of the two posthumous etudes, a study in duet that often points to the pointillistic sonority of later Vienna. A potent Allegro molto from Anda leads us to the second of the posthumous etudes, this a clear Bach derivative in layered counterpoint.  The crystalline Etude VIII offers a world that Debussy and Ravel likely cherished.  The Presto possibile and Etude X catapult us into a toccata dimension Schumann exploits in his formal piano sonatas. Water and unearthly vapors combine in Etude XI, preparing us, by dramatic contrast, for the imperial Finale: Allegro brillante, a march that both gallops and colloquies in various vocal registers. The layered sonorities from Anda confirm the “symphonic” aspirations of Schumann oft-conceived “concerto sans orchestra” ideal for heroic, keyboard virtuosity.

For the 1731 C Minor Partita, Anda means to highlight the textual clarity of Bach’s lines, opening with the staid Sinfonia that lyrically segues into a briskly fugal development and conclusion.  An air of mysterious intimacy marks the first part of this movement. The 2/4 Allemande carries itself with a demure, Prussian authority.  Delicately flowing, the Courante benefits from Anda’s light hand.  A bit of the noble Spanish sensibility characterizes Anda’s Sarabande, which itself might have made for a refined Scarlatti sonata.  The subsequent Rondeau and Capriccio certify the nature of Bach’s Clavieruebung, the idea that polyphonic, digital instruction might contain elements of unbuckled playfulness.

A product of Haydn’s galant sensibility, the Piano Sonata No. 23 (1773) offers Anda in its first movement Allegro any number of opportunities for light, brilliant, wrist-dominated filigree and flurries of passing notes and trills.  The secondary theme may hint at Sturm und Drang in the composer’s temperament. The Adagio confirms this quest for intimate meditation and expression of some inner turmoil, rendered in a quasi music-box sonority by Anda. The flashy Presto exhibits Haydn’s speedy, eccentric wit, a combination of rondo and sonata-form.

The “troubadour” in Anda has its proper vehicle in the last of Mozart keyboard sonatas, the D Major, K. 576 (1789). The so-called “Trumpet” Sonata indulges in some militancy, but its real character lies in the balance between operatic lyricism and digital bravura, its florid runs in the keyboard. The affecting Adagio movement calls upon F-sharp Minor as its dominant color.  Crystal, hesitant and chromatically arched, emerges from Anda’s confident palette.  The quality of Mozart’s grace notes and ornaments, Anda reminds us, lay the foundation for much of the Chopin style. While the “Allegretto” movement is listed for this extraordinarily lengthy CD, my copy ended with the Adagio movement.  Still, highly recommended.

—Gary Lemco

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