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Schumann: Piano Concerto; Beethoven: Eroica Variations; Piano Sonata No. 30

Schumann / Wdr Sinfonieorchester Koln / Keilberth
Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Ica Classics   Catalog #: 5062   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Robert SchumannLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Annie Fischer
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in a 1. BEETHOVEN “Eroica” Variations. Piano Sonata No. 30 Annie Fischer (pn); 1 Joseph Keilberth, cond; 1 Cologne RSO ICA 5062 (73:19) Live: 2/11/1957; 1 4/28/1958

Annie Fischer was as well known for her poetic, Read more sensitive approach to the piano literature as she was for her abhorrence of the recording studio. For reasons known only to her, she agreed to record the complete Beethoven sonatas, took 15 years to do so, and then refused to allow any of them to be issued. This exercise in (expensive) futility was finally resolved after her death, when they were released anyway. (I know, I was thinking the same thing: Fischer in the afterlife yelling, “You put those out over my dead body!”) An artist of impulse, she was forever recording inserts to the sonatas and was never satisfied with the final results, yet the complete set, available on Hungaroton, is fantastic.

Here she is in the 1950s, at her peak, playing one of the classics of the concerto literature as well as two large, late works by Beethoven. The odd, tubby quality of mid 1950s radio sound mars somewhat the delicate tracery of her performance of the Schumann. Fischer was not a pianist who shied away from the grand gesture, not by any means, yet because of her eloquent legato phrasing and moments of introspection, those are the moments that linger in the mind. Joseph Keilberth, one of the great Wagner conductors, does not sound entirely comfortable here; the orchestral playing is not always precise, and his reading has too much legato and lacks snap except in the last movement. As far as mono performances go, I prefer either Lipatti-Karajan or Lipatti-Ansermet.

By contrast, Fischer’s performance of the “Eroica” Variations really takes off. Here, she seems to be in particularly felicitous form, her fingers dancing across the keyboard like a ballerina, alternately exuberant in spinning jetées or light and delicately on pointe. In her hands, dynamic changes do not occur in a conscious way; the music just ebbs and flows, almost of its own volition. I’ve not heard its like in all my life.

Similarly, the Sonata No. 30 is given a reading I can only describe as transcendent. Who else comes close? Schnabel, O’Conor, and Sheppard, no one else I’ve ever heard. (Please, don’t even mention Wilhelm Kempff to me.) After it was over, I refused to put another record on for 10 minutes. I was absolutely lost in the afterglow of this performance.

Thus we have a split review here: a good but too romantic reading of the Schumann concerto, followed by two absolutely spellbinding Beethoven performances. But if you love these Beethoven works, I tell you now, you will not want to live without this record.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Annie Fischer (Piano)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1845; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/28/1958 
Venue:  Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne 
Length: 31 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Variations (15) and Fugue for Piano in E flat major, Op. 35 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Annie Fischer (Piano)
Written: 1802 
Date of Recording: 02/11/1957 
Venue:  Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne 
Length: 18 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Annie Fischer (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/11/1957 
Venue:  Saal 1, Funkhaus, Cologne 
Length: 18 Minutes 22 Secs. 

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