Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K 467
Piano Concerto No.22 in E flat, K 482
Annie Fischer (piano)
Recorded in 1958 at Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London
CD No: EMI 5627502 Duration: 64’32” Reviewed: March 2004
Annie Fischer Mozart Concertos – EMI
Reviewed by Douglas Cooksey
"The Past is another country. They do things differently there". The opening of “The Go-Between” sprang to mind listening once more to these recordings now included in EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century” presentation. Fischer uses cadenzas by Busoni (K467) and Hummel, and there’s vintage 1950s’ Philharmonia wind-playing to savour. Annie Fischer was one of those supremely great artists who, once heard, never leaves you. I heard her play twice. She made relatively few recordings under ideal conditions; she was notoriously self-critical and was uneasy with the recording process; this reissue has particular value, then.
Unlike her contemporary and also-great Mozartian, Clara Haskil, Fischer was a considerable virtuoso. Revisiting these recordings, one wondered whether her renditions would sound over-forceful and anachronistic. Not so! The cadenzas are worth hearing – after all, Busoni was attuned to Mozart’s music in ways that few of his contemporaries were. Fischer plays with the most delicate of touches, nowhere better exemplified than in the slow movements where she uses the most intimate range of halftones. The close of the E flat’s Andante, with its minor-key transition, brings a moment of special magic.
The very greatest music-making stands completely outside time, and these concertos, two of Mozart’s most splendid and most contrasted, admirably showcase Fischer’s special qualities – amongst which were her variety of touch and a leonine grandeur coupled, where needed, with a limpid delicacy.
Under a young-ish Wolfgang Sawallisch (he was 80 in 2003), the Philharmonia at its peak provide an elegant, integrated and, above all, stylish accompaniment. The two Walters, Legge and Jellinek produced these early stereo recordings (originally issued in mono only). The reproduction wears its years lightly, albeit this latest CD transfer is a little dry and there are occasional moments when over-processing discolours certain timbres. A shame.
Bryce Morrison’s programme note is a model of its kind and contains a delightful vignette of Richter playing Fischer a record of him in a Mozart sonata to which Fischer responded unfavourably. Nevertheless, the last word goes to Richter. After hearing Fischer in Brahms’s F minor sonata, a work I also heard her play, he wrote, "Annie Fischer is a great artist imbued with a spirit of greatness and genuine profundity." Exactly!