Works by Schumann, Schubert and Beethoven
KASP 57722

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KASP 57722—Works by Schumann, Schubert and Beethoven

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The American Record Guide said of this disc:

"Swiss pianist Aeschbacher (1912-2002), a pupil of Schnabel, was a thorough artist and well deserves to be remembered for his recordings, recitals, and appearances with Furtwangler. While the recordings are monaural, the sound is perfectly good, with no distortion.
The Fantasy Pieces are most sensitively played. 'Traumes Wirren's attests to the pianist's technical ability, and one would have to return to Richter in order to find a rival. Beethoven's Sonata 17 is known these days as the Tempest Sonata. Aeschbacher plays the opening movement with pin-point accuracy and restrained use of pedal. Any fury built into the printed page is revealed in his thrilling execution of the notes. The ensuing Adagio is highly concentrated and the final Allegretto a model of delicacy and nuance. This is easily one of the best performances I have encountered of this music.
Schubert's Sonata fragment in E, D 459 and the Adagio in C, D 459A are exquisitely played. There is imagination aplenty, without distorting the music. That he lived to 90 years of age only serves to underline the tragedy of not hearing him before this reissue. The brief notes are to the point, and this outstanding issue is of the not-to-be-missed category."

The Audiophile Audition wrote:

"The opening Schumann 1837 Fantasiestuecke, Op. 12 (20 October 1954) from Stuttgart reveals Aeschbacher for the natural Schumann disciple we know from his exquisite Davidsbuendler Taenze released prior on KASP 57671."
"Wonderful dynamic shades permeate Aeschbacher's rendition, and those who revel in the Leschetizky-Schnabel tradition should find in Aeschbacher a remarkably athletic and intellectually acute exponent whose gifts demand more exposure ... "

According to the Classical Music Guide:

"Aeschbacher is one of Schumann's great interpreters of all time."

Though there was never any doubt in our minds about the great artistry of Swiss pianist Adrian Aeschbacher (1912-2002), or of our desire to present another disc of his playing, we were particularly pleased that our previous release, of his performances of the Romances and Davidsbündlertänze of Schumann, and the Moments Musicaux of Schubert on KASP 57671, received unanimous praise.

Originally a student of his father, the choral conductor, Carl Aeschbacher, Adrian Aeschbacher later worked with Emil Frey and Volkmar Andreae at the Zürich Conservatory before moving to Berlin in 1932, where he studied with Artur Schnabel. During his early and middle years he had a very active performing career in Europe and South America. He also made many recordings, particularly of works of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms though, aside from the previous KASP release, few of them are currently available, with the exception of performances of the Beethoven First Concerto and the Brahms Second Concerto with Furtwängler, and the Bach D minor Three Piano Concerto with Edwin Fischer and Paul Baumgartner.

It is no exaggeration to describe the performance presented here of Schumann's Fantasiestücke as one of the finest ever made. Adrian Aeschbacher breathed this composer's idiom in a way not equaled by many others.

If he understood Schumann through and through, Adrian Aeschbacher succeeded no less with the two Schubert works he plays here. The E major Sonata Fragment on this disc moves along beautifully, yet efficiently, with taste and class. The C major Adagio, by contrast, rather like some of the Moments Musicaux, becomes a larger and deeper work than it seems at first glance, and provides some of the most gorgeous and heartfelt moments on this recording.

Finally, we come to Beethoven's Tempest Sonata. Beethoven was also a leading composer in the musical life and career of Adrian Aeschbacher. His teacher, Artur Schnabel, was the first person to record the 32 piano sonatas of the great man from Bonn, and was particularly famous for his insight into this music. Aeschbacher spent a great deal of time working on, and thinking about this music, too. And, in the 1958-59 season, he performed the entire cycle of the 32 sonatas in Zürich, later repeating it in Bern, Basel, Düsseldorf and Amsterdam. As one can hear in this interpretation, by turns gentle, stormy, dramatic but always convincing, Adrian Aeschbacher was deeply imbued with the spirit of this music.

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 57722:

Robert Schumann
Fantasiestücke, Op. 12

Franz Schubert
Sonata Fragment in E Major, K. 459
Adagio in C Major, K. 459A

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31, No. 2 (Tempest)

Adrian Aeschbacher, Piano


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