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David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2010

Though his name is now largely forgotten, the Swiss-born pianist, Edwin Fischer, held a position among the most knowledgeable interpreters of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert during the first half of the 20th century. By today’s standards he would be seen as an ‘interpreter’ who wished to impart his personal view of the music, a truth you will discover in the spacious meditation that he introduces to the central movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto. Using ‘Emperor’ as his entry point into the score, the opening movement is full of aristocratic correctness that is reflected in Wilhelm Furtwängler’s accompaniment imbued with stateliness. We also find many moments of admirable delicacy, particularly in Fischer’s filigree decoration the piano is called upon to provide. There are a few slips, but the performance shows a pianist very much in control, the fast passages cleanly delineated. That he and his conductor love every note of the Adagio is obvious, the transition into the final movement made without fuss or mannerism. Furtwängler understood Beethoven’s symphonies as well as any conductor, and if this recording of the Fourth sounds rather dour at the opening, it is a reading of intensity in the outer movements, with a lyrical Adagio and an engaging Minuetto to follow. In tutti passages the 1950 Vienna recording tends to congeal, and in quality I much prefer the Philharmonia’s bright sound in the Concerto to the Vienna Philharmonic where the playing is not always precise. The 1951 concerto recording balances the piano well forward, and if I have a few misgivings, it is an essential purchase for Furtwängler’s legion of admirers.

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