Pianist Geza Anda = HAYDN: Sonata in F Major, Hob.XVI:23; SCHUMANN: Symphonic Etudes; Carnaval; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales; LIEBERMANN: Klaviersonate; CHOPIN: Ballade in G Minor; 12 Etudes; BRAHMS: Intermezzo in E-flat Major – Hanssler (2 CDs)

by | May 16, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Pianist Geza Anda = HAYDN: Sonata in F Major, Hob.XVI:23; SCHUMANN: Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13; Carnaval, Op. 9; RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales; LIEBERMANN: Klaviersonate; CHOPIN: Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23; 12 Etudes, Op. 25; BRAHMS: Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1

Hanssler 94.211 2-CD, 54:18; 70:33 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Hungarian virtuoso Geza Anda (1921-1976) opens a recital derived from radio broadcasts from SWR Stuttgart with Haydn’s perky F Major Sonata (17 April 1950), given a sparkling bravura rendition. Anda’s pearly play and deft touch make themselves felt in every concerted bar, and the runaway Presto finale might be a minor meteor.  Schumann ever maintained Anda’s devotion, and he often programmed Symphonic Etudes, including the free interpolation of the five posthumous variations. The rendition included here (2 October 1951) includes two of the posthumous etudes, nos. 4 and 5, inserted after the sixth and eighth of the traditional studies. The first exploits sweeping arpeggios and glissandi techniques; the latter opens a jeweled music-box filled with nectar crystals. The serenity yields to the following Etude, a staccato study in syncopations that becomes quite frantic. Etude X, for want of a better term, has always struck me as “Brahmsian” for its double octaves. The agitato mysteries of Etude XI have rarely been so rarified in their mist contours, except perhaps from Cherkassky. The Etude XII finale, besides its obvious, heroic bravura, exudes the innigkeit requisite to any of the Davids-Leaguers who keep the dissolute forces of philistinism at bay.

The Ravel waltzes, in their sturdy percussion, date from 19 May 1951. Anda does not spare the fortissimos nor the pedal, moving to extremes in the first two waltzes, from aggression to erotic insinuation. The dance marked “Presque lent–dans un sentiment intime” has its perfect executor in Anda, which rivals the classically-chiseled entry by Robert Casadesus. Lithe and sensuously nimble, the last two waltzes–Moins vif et Epilogue--combine Vienna glitter and Schubert’s intimate suggestiveness in Ravel’s idiosyncratic kaleidoscopic panoply.  Rolf Liebermann’s 1951 Sonata (2 October 1951) marks one of the few pieces Anda programmed that post-date World War II. His “modern” repertory ceased, for the most part, with the 1945 Third Concerto of Bartok. Liebermann (1910-1999) begins his nine-minute work with a toccata-style Vivace with periodic moments of pointillist staccati. The heart of the piece is the Andante espessivo, rather angular and reminiscent of Ravel, Gershwin, and modal Poulenc. Its brief plunge into the depths soon clarifies into taut lines and liquid runs. Two fast movements end the piece: an Allegro vivace in mercurial rhythms and jagged accents; the another Allegro of the same duration in stormy block chords that begin to skitter in broken agogics, almost a galloping Debussy or Bartok etude.

The second disc is devoted to the 1955 (May 21) recital at Ludwigsburg, a venue frequented by Anda’s esteemed colleague, Clara Haskil. Anda opens with the First Ballade of Chopin, a reading of balanced intensities, gothic and introspective at once. The music’s fierce Neapolitan harmonies and inner tumult manage to find a noble repose in the course of its poetic declamation mid-way, only to yield to the Dionysiac dramaturgy of its late pages with a passionate abandon that belies Anda’s repute for “objectivity.”

A bit of the manic touches Anda’s rush into the many-sided personality of Schumann’s Carnaval suite, and we sense that Florestan and Eusebius indeed compete for affective dominance in their several guises. Pierrot himself treads heavily, almost by stealth. Arlequin’s motley sparkles then disappears. Valse noble adds a dash of cinnamon to flowery mix, only to have Eusebius appear in a tender serenade. Florestan and Hermes have much in common, with a mercurial reference to Papillons, who themselves will scamper by in a plastic blur. Coquette flutters in her own butterfly figures. The Dancing Letters tie Schumann to his amours, and Chiarina will emerge victorious. Anda’s Chopin (agitato) pays nocturnal homage to the master of the Romantic keyboard. The glistening leggierissimo of the next sections–Reconnaissance and Pantalon et Colombine–allot to the Commedia dell’Arte something of Liszt’s lithe athleticism. Paganini, moreover, carries the power principle to its natural conclusion, only to deconstruct into the “harmless” Valse allemande. Aveu gives us rarified timbres, a virtual jewel inside a music box. Anda catches his breath in the Promenade and Pause, and quite justifiably, given the mighty declarations and heart-stopping run that are meant for the Davids-Leaguers to smite the Philistines, the mounting stretti linked by a divine madness.

Anda recorded the Op. 25 set of Chopin Etudes for EMI, and he often featured the complete ensemble as a concert staple. He plays the A-flat Major for its serene beauty, and thus sets the tone for the remainder, to be played in the classic style of Backhaus, for poetry and strength of form. Neither flaunting Arrau’s brilliance nor Pollini’s glacial penetration, Anda manages warm fire and rhythmic color in the F Minor/F Major diptych. The syncopes of the A Minor traverse a silken tightrope. The E Minor moves from virtuosity to poetry with smooth dexterity, a tone-poem of cascading power. The G-sharp Minor offers Anda another canny exercise in syncopated touches and graduated dynamics. The massive C-sharp Minor provides the longest vehicle for sustained counterpoint and vocal inflection from Anda’s formidable palette. Digital accuracy and deft wrist action mark the ensuing D-flat Major and G-flat Major etudes, Anda in full and confident stride. The Lisztian B Minor might have provided the model for Liszt’s very Sonata in the same key and broiling temper. The middle section resides in soft mists and gentle scents that soothe the Caliban on this self-enclosed island. Some will find the A Minor “Winter Wind” too staid in Anda’s rendition, but admirers will hear a solemn grandeur not easily duplicated. The torrential C Minor etude that closes the set Anda plays as an emotional epilogue, as if this were a symphonic poem by Dvorak. Here, Neptune himself appears to overwhelm all creation with an unstoppable tide of nostalgia, resolution, and inevitability, all at once.

The Brahms E-flat Major intermezzo, a simple, nostalgic folk song evocation, makes the perfect commentary to all of the “learned” counterpoint of this evening’s colossal recital at Ludwigsburg, where the spirit of colleague Clara Haskil must have lingered nigh.

–Gary Lemco

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