Edwin Fischer plays Schubert
Edwin Fischer was, like his friend and contemporary Wilhelm Furtwangler, an inspirational musician who fared best when the composer's spirit visited him, rather than when he attempted to visit—or, even worse, record—the spirit 'to order'; it was very much a matter of luck as to whether the mood caught him 'on the day'. But luck was obviously on his side on March 8th and 9th, 1938, the dates set for these particular sessions: I cannot imagine that any concert performances by Fischer, indeed any performances anywhere, could have been truer to the spirit of Schubert's eight Impromptus than these. Even Artur Schnabel, who recorded the two sets in 1950 (Arabesque, 12/87), failed to match standards that he himself had set with his pre-war Schubert recordings. However, in Fischer we hear something of Schnabel's excitability, something of Cortot's intuitive feel for modulation (a quality passed on to Fischer's distinguished pupil, Alfred Brendel) and a great deal of Furtwangler's grandeur.
Comparing D899 No. 2 with Schnabel finds Fischer less fluid, less lilting in the central section, but far more responsive to the call of musical drama; likewise in the outer sections of D935 No. 2—possibly the greatest performance of them all—where his passionate, almost desperate scaling of the music's climactic peaks throws the heavenly duet that follows into perfect relief. Rarely if ever have I heard melody and counterpoint so sensitively balanced, with Schubert's 'question and answer' sounding with exquisite melancholy over a controlled but expressive accompaniment. If you can, try, too, the first of D935 No. 3's variations, which wafts in as if on the ether, or the darkening countenance that draws across the staves minutes later. This is where Fischer's orchestral imagination comes to the fore, and where his interpretative and technical skills seem to transcend the limits of the instrument.
The transfers are good, the documentation substantial, informative and enthusiastic. A very welcome and important release.'