Schumann
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54
Beethoven
Fifteen Variations and Fugue in E flat, Op.35 (Eroica)
Piano Sonata No.30 in E, Op.109
Annie Fischer (piano)

Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester [Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra]
Joseph Keilberth [Schumann]

Recorded in the Funkhaus, Saal 1, WDR Cologne – on 28 April 1958 (Schumann) and 11 February 1957
CD No: ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5062
Duration: 73 minutes
Reviewed: May 2012
It’s all too easy to sentimentalise Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, to stress its feminine side (if you will) and not just because it was written for the composer’s wife, Clara. Hungarian Annie Fischer (1914-95) is more vivid and volatile than some pianists in this work, sweetly sung at times but with no lack of vivid demonstration at others. It all connects though and there is a focus across the whole, an absorbing mix of fantasy (often subtle and lovable) and forthrightness. The performance is alive with incident and passion, shape and poise too, but without prissiness. Joseph Keilberth and the orchestra contribute much to the performance, always at-one with Fischer and offering considered and characterful support. The finale’s moderate tempo is ideal to seamlessly address its forward current, asides and reflection.
With the following Beethoven comes something very special, a performance of the 'Eroica' Variations that is exploratory and joyful, giving the impression that while performing it Fischer was loving no work more and playing it for total pleasure, alive to every flippancy and profundity (for such is the work’s range) to create a completely absorbing experience. For all its wonder as music, Opus 109 is not quite as engaging in this account. The first movement can be a little hectoring and the second one over-forceful. With the sublime Theme and Variations finale, however, Fischer comes into her own to reveal the music’s depth and transfiguration, although this sublime utterance was served even more organically and transcendentally by Claudio Arrau.
The mono sound is perfectly acceptable throughout, especially in the solo items, and if neither concerto nor sonata in these performances may be thought definitive they are certainly distinctive and often illuminating while the Eroica Variations is grandly effective and one of the genuinely great piano recordings.

 

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