Andreas Haefliger: Perspectives 7
The booklet essay is cagey about the rationale behind Andreas Haefliger’s latest instalment of ‘programme constellations’ each built around a Beethoven sonata (previous instalments have appeared on Avie), and Haefliger himself isn’t much more help, declaring ‘I simply experience these connections’. Best, I suppose, not to worry too much about the logic behind what is essentially a full two-part recital crammed on to a single disc, and simply to concentrate on the playing.
As the core work, the Op 101 Sonata comes off beautifully; the opening and slow movements are thoughtful, inward and flexible, and the scherzo and finale as articulate and mercurial as you could wish for, without destroying the poetic framework of the whole. Definitely a performance I could happily live with.
Sensibility and refinement are hallmarks of Haefliger’s Berg too, along with sympathetic understanding and projection of the polyphonic web of voices. At 14 and a half minutes, this is one of the longer accounts on disc, and this is certainly not the only valid approach. After all, Berg originally headed the piece Allegro before adding a moderato qualifier, and it comes at the end of half a dozen incomplete attempts at a sonata first movement (one of which eventually found its consummation in the big third-act interlude in Wozzeck). Still, Haefliger is certainly persuasive on his own terms. And so he is in the Liszt Légende. Here, if anything, one might crave an even more spacious approach: something like the strictly speaking inimitable Ervin Nyiregyházi, perhaps.
Haefliger takes his time over quite a few of Musorgsky’s Pictures, probing them for sonoristic and expressive nuances that not many others care to explore. There are many gains here, not least in terms of harmonic sensitivity and proto-Impressionist subtlety of pedalling, but also, arguably, some losses in momentum and objectivity. Perhaps it depends on how much you want your attention to be drawn to the suggestive qualities of each ‘picture’ and how much to the feelings of its contemplator.
Thinking of this as an imagined concert experience, I certainly come away feeling enriched. As a recording for repeated listenings, it leaves me rather in two minds.