Author Topic: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle  (Read 2061 times)

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Offline aligreto

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Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« on: July 13, 2022, 03:25:07 AM »
This is a specific request for assistance with appreciating this specific cycle.





Are you familiar with this cycle?
Do you like it or not?
What do you consider to be its strengths and/or weaknesses?

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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2022, 03:25:28 AM »
As one builds one’s collection there are a number of specific works, performances and performers that one would like to include in it.

The Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle played by Annie Fischer was always one of those for me. However, until relatively recently I had not acquired this cycle until a friend of mine gave me access to it. I was very excited to be finally able to hear this set, anticipating wonderful things from it. This anticipation stemmed from a number of recommendations that had been made to me over the years that this was a superb, must hear set.

I have done no research since I have acquired the set in terms of what was to be expected from it as I like to let my own ears be the judge of interpreting what I am hearing.

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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2022, 03:25:47 AM »
So far I have listened to four sonatas, Beethoven’s Opp. 2 & 7 in this Piano Sonata cycle performed by Annie Fischer. I must admit that I have been disappointed with these listening sessions thus far. I have found the sound of the instrument [or the recording of it] to be too powerful and full sounding for my taste in the Op. 2 works. I also find that the playing is too robust in that there is a lack of fluidity or lyricism in the flow of the presentations. I found these listening sessions to be fatiguing; too much gravitas overall, for me.
With regard to Op. 7 yes, all of the notes are properly played but I am finding that the interpretation and presentation lack fluidity and sensitivity. It all sounds too technical a performance to my ears.

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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2022, 03:26:17 AM »
Therefore, before I proceed any further with this cycle, I am endeavouring to elicit specific guidance from more educated piano-philes with the following questions regarding Fischer’s interpretations:

1. What am I missing, if anything, in terms of these performances and interpretations?
2. What specifically should I be looking for to increase my appreciation of Fischer’s presentations?
3. Am I wasting my time proceeding any further if I have these impressions at this early stage?

What I am looking for here is help and guidance with interpreting and appreciating what Fischer is trying to do with these interpretations.
I am open to any suggestions that will enable me to appreciate anything that is good in this specific cycle that I may be obviously missing.
Just to be clear, I do have nine other complete or near complete cycles of this music by other pianists and many, many individual discs. Therefore, I am not looking for other recommendations, simply guidance on Fischer’s interpretations, if that is possible.
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Offline hvbias

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2022, 03:55:53 AM »
This might be my second favorite cycle behind Andrea Lucchesini's. One major problem with Fischer's cycle is the very jarring edits in places where the volume, dynamics or even wrong timing of notes is spliced in haphazardly.

I also find that the playing is too robust in that there is a lack of fluidity or lyricism in the flow of the presentations. I found these listening sessions to be fatiguing; too much gravitas overall, for me.
With regard to Op. 7 yes, all of the notes are properly played but I am finding that the interpretation and presentation lack fluidity and sensitivity. It all sounds too technical a performance to my ears.

I can see where you're coming from these descriptions. If I were to have read them without a pianist being mentioned I'd have guessed you were referring to Kovacevich.

Lyricism and fluidity might be a lower priority on the scale with her, but I do find it has that transcendental quality in the late sonatas where I find Kovacevich and especially Gulda (Amadeo) who are in a similar style a huge miss.

You are correct that the recording quality errs towards the hard side.

I universally find her earlier EMI recordings superior to the Hungaroton but she is still Annie Fischer which probably won't change your opinion.

aligreto I'd love to read about your favorites among your nine cycles and what you like about them. I'm always looking for an excuse to relisten to what I have or explore something I haven't :)
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 03:59:00 AM by hvbias »
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2022, 04:18:40 AM »
This might be my second favorite cycle behind Andrea Lucchesini's. One major problem with Fischer's cycle is the very jarring edits in places where the volume, dynamics or even wrong timing of notes is spliced in haphazardly.

I can see where you're coming from these descriptions. If I were to have read them without a pianist being mentioned I'd have guessed you were referring to Kovacevich.

Lyricism and fluidity might be a lower priority on the scale with her, but I do find it has that transcendental quality in the late sonatas where I find Kovacevich and especially Gulda (Amadeo) who are in a similar style a huge miss.

You are correct that the recording quality errs towards the hard side.

I universally find her earlier EMI recordings superior to the Hungaroton but she is still Annie Fischer which probably won't change your opinion.

aligreto I'd love to read about your favorites among your nine cycles and what you like about them. I'm always looking for an excuse to relisten to what I have or explore something I haven't :)

Thank you very much for your quick and helpful response.
It is indeed gratifying, coming from a Fischer lover, that my perceived faults thus far were not imaginary to my ears.  :)

You mention that

Quote
Lyricism and fluidity might be a lower priority on the scale with her

so I would be interested to know what you consider to be her strong points in this music so that I can look out for them myself and endeavour to take them on board.


I do not want this thread to turn into another account of peoples’ Top Ten this or that so I will revert to you on my favourites at a slightly later stage.  ;)
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Offline hvbias

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2022, 04:44:37 AM »
Thank you very much for your quick and helpful response.
It is indeed gratifying, coming from a Fischer lover, that my perceived faults thus far were not imaginary to my ears.  :)

You mention that

so I would be interested to know what you consider to be her strong points in this music so that I can look out for them myself and endeavour to take them on board.


I do not want this thread to turn into another account of peoples’ Top Ten this or that so I will revert to you on my favourites at a slightly later stage.  ;)

Your faults with the cycle are most definitely not imagined :) There is a cult like following with Annie where she can do no wrong, and I am not in that camp.

Speaking for the cycle as a whole, what I like about it is the propulsive brio, but is still sensitive in most slow movements. I find pianists that really bring the former tend to record cycles that are "just the notes" the Gulda Amadeo I mentioned earlier is the first one that comes to mind, but overall comes across as superficial. It's sort of a tough thing to characterize, as Charles Rosen in his several recordings of the late sonatas is also in a rather sober classical style ala Gulda but brings insight like the various voices in the closing movement of op. 111 or the fugal contrasts in Hammerklavier that make them worth hearing over and over.

It has been a long time since I've heard her in the earlier sonatas, I'll give them a listen and report back.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 04:47:07 AM by hvbias »
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Online MusicTurner

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2022, 04:55:37 AM »
The OP's mentioning of an - at times - lack of lyricism corresponds to my own, overall impression.

Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2022, 05:00:19 AM »
Your faults with the cycle are most definitely not imagined :) There is a cult like following with Annie where she can do no wrong, and I am not in that camp.

Speaking for the cycle as a whole, what I like about it is the propulsive brio, but is still sensitive in most slow movements. I find pianists that really bring the former tend to record cycles that are "just the notes" the Gulda Amadeo I mentioned earlier is the first one that comes to mind, but overall comes across as superficial. It's sort of a tough thing to characterize, as Charles Rosen in his several recordings of the late sonatas is also in a rather sober classical style ala Gulda but brings insight like the various voices in the closing movement of op. 111 or the fugal contrasts in Hammerklavier that make them worth hearing over and over.

It has been a long time since I've heard her in the earlier sonatas, I'll give them a listen and report back.

Thank you, once again, for your helpful response.
I will certainly listen out for the propulsive brio that you have mentioned.

If I remember correctly, I read some time ago that this cycle was recorded over a number of years. If this is correct, does Fischer's approach change in any way as the years passed?
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 05:03:55 AM by aligreto »
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2022, 05:03:18 AM »
The OP's mentioning of an - at times - lack of lyricism corresponds to my own, overall impression.

Thank you for that. This is not an Annie Fischer bashing exercise by any means on my behalf.
It is simply somewhat pleasing that two different people have now confirmed my misgivings due to my disappointment.
Perhaps I had built it up too much in my own mind?
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Offline aligreto

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2022, 05:13:17 AM »

aligreto I'd love to read about your favorites among your nine cycles and what you like about them. I'm always looking for an excuse to relisten to what I have or explore something I haven't :)

You have a PM  :)
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Offline Todd

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2022, 05:24:19 AM »
This is a specific request for assistance with appreciating this specific cycle.




Are you familiar with this cycle?

Yes.


Do you like it or not?

Yes.  It remains my favorite cycle out of ~120 I have heard.  I have not listened to the whole thing in a while, though.


What do you consider to be its strengths and/or weaknesses?

Ms Fischer is hard hitting, intense, and almost fraught at times.  Her playing is vigorous and mostly avoids a softer style, even in places where it may benefit the music.  Subtlety is not a priority.  The Hungaroton cycle is about of-the-moment feeling of individual passages and sections, which was reflected in the way it was put together - recorded over many years and in many takes.  The sound of the Bosendorfer reinforces her approach.  Her EMI and various live recordings (eg, BBC Legends) also sound very fine, but her Hungaroton cycle is her finest achievement when it comes to Beethoven.
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Offline hvbias

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2022, 05:28:09 AM »
If I remember correctly, I read some time ago that this cycle was recorded over a number of years. If this is correct, does Fischer's approach change in any way as the years past?

It was recorded over many years, it was edited rather sloppily from numerous takes, and to the best of my memory the booklet makes no mention of these edits which would make any given recording dates IMO meaningless.

I compared her EMI recordings from much earlier in her career and her overall approach is the same as the Hungaroton.

Since you mentioned the recording quality, for me this is usually not something that can detract me enough from a recording if I like the performances. In the last few years among my most played Beethoven piano sonatas included Kempff's pre-war electric and one acoustic recordings and these sound dreadful. I can certainly see how this would be a major drawback and remove further from one's enjoyment of the music.
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2022, 06:02:55 AM »
This is a specific request for assistance with appreciating this specific cycle.



Are you familiar with this cycle?
Do you like it or not?
What do you consider to be its strengths and/or weaknesses?

I have been aware of her cycle for years and am listening to it again, right now.  It has always been one that I knew to be deservedly highly regarded, and as such, considered it a kind of reference recording; i.e. to compare new recordings to her performances.

It is very good, IMO, among the best of the ones I've heard.  I am horrible at trying to describe why I like a recording, or qualities of the performance.  But since you seem to want that kind of feedback, I'd say her's is authoritative, strongly articulated and defined;  possessing a unique personality and interpretation of the music. 

All of which I think creates a distinctive and remarkable performance of Beethoven.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2022, 06:15:48 AM »
I personally dislike her Beethoven enormously for all the reasons which make Todd like it  -- hard hitting, vigorous, commanding, confident and extrovert. These things are just taste but I will say this -- although I dislike it, it's a very good cycle and it really needs to be heard. One day I may even acquire the taste for it.

There's another think I could say, at the level of anecdote. Every time I listen to something from the cycle I'm reminded of how excellent it is. Amazingly excellent at times. The named sonatas, op 2s and 10s, the last sonatas -- all incredible really.  It's just that I don't like it much.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2022, 06:20:53 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline DavidW

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2022, 06:30:56 AM »
This is my second favorite set and a great contrast to my favorite (Kempff).  Fischer is so muscular and vibrant and personal.  It just has to be heard.  You don't have to like it, but it brings another dimension to these great works, and should be heard just for that reason.


Offline Wanderer

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2022, 08:32:21 AM »
It was recorded over many years, it was edited rather sloppily from numerous takes, and to the best of my memory the booklet makes no mention of these edits which would make any given recording dates IMO meaningless.

Hence the nickname “FrankenFischer cycle”, which I do not think is undeserving. Personally, I find this heavy-handed editing work disqualifies it from being seriously and validly considered among other interpretations.

I also find that the playing is too robust in that there is a lack of fluidity or lyricism in the flow of the presentations. I found these listening sessions to be fatiguing; too much gravitas overall, for me.
With regard to Op. 7 yes, all of the notes are properly played but I am finding that the interpretation and presentation lack fluidity and sensitivity. It all sounds too technical a performance to my ears.

It’s not you, it’s the playing.
Let me add my voice to those who do not like her Beethoven cycle. At all. I find her playing heavy-handed and insensitive to the music.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2022, 12:19:00 PM by Wanderer »

Offline Jo498

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2022, 09:15:57 AM »
It was recorded over many years, it was edited rather sloppily from numerous takes, and to the best of my memory the booklet makes no mention of these edits which would make any given recording dates IMO meaningless.
I think they give a "range" like 1977-80 or so. They stem from the late 70s, but were never approved for release by Fischer and therefore published some time after her death in the 1990s, and, as already said, supposedly put together from a multitude of takes.

Quote
I compared her EMI recordings from much earlier in her career and her overall approach is the same as the Hungaroton.
I have had these in the "introuvables" box for a long time and the continued praise in some corners of the internet (long before I knew of this forum, probably going back to the late 1990s after the hungaroton appeared) made be buy two volumes of the hungaroton around 10 or 12 years ago when they were on sale.

I agree that the overall approach seems somewhat similar (and it's less than 20 years between the EMI and the hungaroton, less time, I believe, than between Pollinis Late Sonatas and his last recorded Beethoven sonatas). The sound is not great on either (the EMI being muffled late 50s, some mono, the hungaroton almost brutally direct). I think they are worthwhile but I don't quite get the "über-status" they have acquired (and I have the strong impression that this status is particularly pronounced in US-dominated internet fora... which is neither good nor bad, of course, just a bit odd, but correct me, if I am wrong and Diapason or Fonoforum have waxed lyrical about them).
Years ago I compared a bunch of op.31/3 in some discussion in another forum and I wrote that Fischer's (EMI) was the grimmest, least humorous version of this sonata I encountered, nevertheless oddly compelling and worth listening.
I could probably say similar things about all of the 12 or 14 sonatas I have heard. Of course, for some sonatas the grim intensity and expressivity has almost no downside but as overall far more sonatas are lyrical or playful than dramatic (and the dramatic ones are often the ones with MANY compelling recordings) this is for me an overall downside. Because the hungaroton discs are hard to find and expensive separately and I don't do streaming or downloads, I am not in a hurry to get the remainder; it's a good set but I don't agree that it deserves the exalted status it has in some quarters.

@aligreto: Try op.110 and 111 from the hungaroton, or maybe op.10/3.
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I knew the night had gone.
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Offline Wanderer

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2022, 10:29:14 AM »
(and I have the strong impression that this status is particularly pronounced in US-dominated internet fora...).

This is my impression, as well.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Help with Annie Fischer’s Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle
« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2022, 11:00:55 AM »
This might be my second favorite cycle behind Andrea Lucchesini's.
What do you particularly like about Lucchesini?
(I think it's good and very impressive for live and mostly in pleasant sound but I also don't understand why it is often recommended so highly.

Quote
Lyricism and fluidity might be a lower priority on the scale with her, but I do find it has that transcendental quality in the late sonatas where I find Kovacevich and especially Gulda (Amadeo) who are in a similar style a huge miss.
The Philips recordings by Kovacevich have more pleasant sound, are less "bangy" than the EMI and include the last 3 sonatas and op 101.

I think Gulda has a rather different style, usually less dramatic (more "kinetic") and expressive. He can be a bit "slick", very fast and not very expressive although I think sometimes I'd call this unpretentious and "natural", rather than plain, and I like his op.106 and 111 still a lot but I agree that the others are a bit prosaic (op.110 apparently was a huge favorite of Gulda and he frequently played it in recital).
As I wrote in the other reply, Fischer manages to make some sonatas (like 31/3 or 14/2) "work" despite lack of charm and humor but I find Gulda superior in most such pieces and these respects.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)