The Hungarian pianist Annie Fischer died in 1995 after a long and successful
career that brought her much acclaim, even if it never lifted her into the first
rank of classical pianists. She was omitted from the Philips “Great Pianists of
the 20th Century” set of CDs which featured recordings by 72 pianists. However,
there has always been a body of opinion that feels her achievements were much
greater than this would indicate, and since her death many recordings have been
released to considerable praise. The present CD contains such recordings made in
1958 and 1960, all previously issued by different labels. They show Fischer at
her best in repertoire at which she was most successful, and illustrate why many
regard her as one of the finest pianists of her time. Stylistically her playing
is at first unremarkable – in most respects her tempi and tone display no
unusual features; in fact, the one aspect of her playing that might be
considered a weakness is the lack of an instantly recognizable tone in the
manner of Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Horowitz, Alfred Cortot or Wilhelm Kempff.
But this is a weakness only at first glance: Fischer's somewhat neutral tone
serves to underline a simplicity and profundity unencumbered by personality. Her
phrasing makes even the most complex and profound passages instantly
understandable – a skill particularly evident in her recordings of Beethoven's
later Piano Sonatas.
There are several recordings, both audio and video, of Fischer performing the Piano Concerto in C, K 467, by Mozart. The studio recording presented here features her with the Philharmonia Orchestra under a young Wolfgang Sawallisch. The recorded sound is good, although the piano sounds somewhat distant, as if the microphones were placed somewhere around the woodwind. It must be one of the best orchestral accompaniments to this Concerto on record: the ensemble is tight but warm, phrasing is light and graceful, and, possibly because of the placement of the microphones, the ensemble between piano and orchestra, especially the woodwind, is unusually transparent. Fischer herself plays with the characteristics familiar from her other recordings: without being overly intrusive, she shapes phrases in an entirely natural but rhetorical manner, often placing themes into a new light. Articulation and expression are always clear and precise, and her overall view of the Concerto is energetic without ever becoming excessively rhythmical. As in all her other recordings of this work, Fischer plays cadenzas by Busoni for both the first and third movements. As Mozart did not supply any himself, and no other composer has contributed a definitive set in the manner of Beethoven and the D Minor Concerto, pianists are obliged to be more experimental here. Busoni’s cadenzas are clearly stylistically complementary rather than matching, but fulfil all the expectations of what a cadenza should do, albeit with some extra combinations and perhaps more distant modulations than one would anticipate.
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