Recordings of Adrian Aeschbacher
KASP 57671

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KASP 57671— Works by Schumann and Schubert

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The Audiophile Audition wrote:

"In the annals of great Schumann interpretation we recall Geza Anda, Artur Rubinstein, Yves Nat, Robert Casadesus, and Wilhelm Kempff, too often forgetting Adrian Aeschbacher, a pupil of Artur Schnabel whose excellent work with Edwin Fischer and Wilhelm Furtwaengler remains precious to collectors and connoisseurs."

The Classical Music Guide wrote of this CD:

"Over the years, recorded accounts of Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze have been many ... But never have I been so touched by a recording of this work than by Adrian Aeschbacher."

The American Record Guide said:

"The pianist's mastery of the German and Austrian romantic style is assured and complete, not only in the Davidsbündler Dances, but in the six Moments Musicaux of Schubert. What perception and imagination he brings to these works!"

Though not well-known in the early 21st Century, those with long memories, and those who collect classic Deutsche Grammophon releases will know of the great Swiss pianist, Adrian Aeschbacher (1912-2002). His large discography includes works of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. During a very active concert career he performed together with such world-class figures as Fischer and Furtwängler, among others.

KASP Records is pleased and honored to present the first release in many years of these recordings, originally made in the 1950's. But it is not primarily for historic reasons that these performances of Schumann and Schubert are once again being presented to the public. It is because they offer some of the very finest recordings ever made of these works.

As Aeschbacher's teacher, Artur Schnabel, was an unsurpassed Beethoven player, so Adrian Aeschbacher was a Schumann pianist par excellence. His Davidsbündlertänze shows a unique understanding of this huge work, and displays, with uncanny ability, the dramatic contrasts of Florestan, the firebrand, and the dreamy Eusebius, the opposing poles of Schumann's imagination.

And as a Schubert player Adrian Aeschbacher leaves nothing to be desired. His Moments Musicaux are simple, yet deep, intense, when necessary, but always idiomatic.

MusicWeb International wrote the following about the KASP Records Adrian Aeschbacher CDs:

The Swiss pianist Adrian Aeschbacher (1912-2002) got his early grounding from his father Carl, a small-time choir-master and composer, before he progressed on to the conservatory in Zurich, for tuition with Emil Frey and Volkmar Andrae. It was Artur Schnabel in Berlin who put the finishing touches to his studies. In 1934 he embarked on a performing career with a repertoire that focussed on Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Interestingly, Othmar Schoeck, Arthur Honegger, Heinrich Sutermeister and Walter Lang also featured. From 1965 until 1977 he taught at the Hochschule des Saarlandes für Musik in Saarbrücken. His commercial discography has been neglected in the CD era, which no doubt accounts for the fact that he is largely unknown today. A live airing of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Furtwängler, given at the Lucerne Festival on August 27 1947, has done the rounds. It is my only previous exposure to this pianist. These two discs, featuring recordings he set down for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1950s, are most welcome.

It is to the likes of Yves Nat, Wilhelm Kempff and Arthur Rubinstein that I turn to for fine Schumann playing. After hearing these two discs, I can add another name to that impressive roll call. Adrian Aeschbacher's unbridled fantasy in Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze, allied with an embodiment of the extrovert and introvert sides of the composer's bipolar personality, encapsulated in the characters of Florestan and Eusebius, ensures the performance's success. Lebaft, which opens the cycle, is upbeat and optimistic. Innig, which follows, is wistful and regretful. Mit Humour brims over with confidence, with Sehr rasch waspish and tetchy. Einfach is reflective and considered. Of the three Romances, Op. 28, the first is suffused with unalloyed romantic passion. The second, the most popular, is tender and ardent, and in the hands of Aeschbacher is a fervent love-song. No. 3 for me has always been problematic. In fact, if I am truthful and lay my cards on the table, I have always found it one of the most uninspired, unappealing and unattractive pieces in the whole piano repertoire. Even Aeschbacher fails to convince me of its virtues.

The contrasting personality traits of bold/brash with dreamy/melancholic (Florestan and Eusebius) are eloquently underlined in Aeschbacher's reading of Fantasiestücke Op. 12, and the interaction between the two is potently realized. The eight pieces, written in 1837, take their inspiration from a collection of novellas entitled Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier by E.T.A Hoffmann. Schumann dedicated them to the Scottish pianist Anna Robena Laidlaw, with whom he had had a brief flirtation. Abends is poetically shaped, leading to Aufschwung, which makes a dramatic impact. The sense of questionning in Warum? is well-judged, but it is the spring, buoyant rhythms and sparkling finger work of Traumes Wirren which are calculated to impress.

Although composed as individual pieces over a few years, Schubert's Moments Musicaux collectively form an attractive and popular six-movement suite. Aeschbacher's stylish and characterful playing hits the target spot on. Judicious pedalling, taking care not to smudge the harmonies, is another compelling feature, as is the attainment of a multifarious palette of colour. Listen to the way he exquisitely voices the chords in No. 2, titled Andante. There is a playful lightness in the F minor (No. 3), whilst No. 5 has a propulsive vigour. I like No. 6 for its reserved containment; the music is not permitted to degenerate into sentimentality. The Sonata Fragment and Adagio are particularly valued for their rarity. Aeschbacher's performance of the latter is a lesson for all pianists in sensitive dynamic control and achievement of luminous tonal hues.

We are told in the booklet notes that the pianist performed a complete cycle of Beethoven's thirty-two piano sonatas in Zurich in the 1958-1959 season, next repeating them in other cities. Listening to his recording of the Tempest Sonata makes one wish he had taken the complete cycle into the studio. Like his teacher, Schnabel, he has an instinctive grasp of structure and architecture of the work, and he certainly whips up some ecstatic intensity in the faster sections of the opening movement. The Adagio is eloquently contoured and nobly refined, and the finale conjures up the image of a horse galloping past a window.

Donald Isler, producer of Kasp records, has a personal connection with the pianist. Aeschbacher taught his father Werner Isler. The Swiss pianist used to practice on Werner's parent's Bechstein in Berlin in the early days, and gave the young boy lessons. Donald Isler got permission from Deutsche Grammophon to reissue these recordings, which have been superbly remastered by Joseph Patrych. These two releases have been a labour of love, and a wonderful discovery for me.

Stephen Greenbank

KASP 57671:

Robert Schumann
Three Romances, Op. 28
Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6

Franz Schubert
Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780

Adrian Aeschbacher, Piano


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