* FISCHER, Edwin(6th Oct. 1886~24th Jan. 1960)
[ a lion's velvet paws ]
Based on contributed material at Classical
Music, Vol.2(Sep. 1996)
[ Fischer at his young age ]
The minimum technique that can support the expression a professional player want is indispensable to him. However, I think many a people tends to confuse the way and the purpose. There were some professional artists who can fulfill their aims even thought their technique was not very good ; Edwin Fischer was one of them surely. It is so sufficient as to call him maestro, because he reached the aim so beautifully.
He is an
artist of monaural era. He was born in Basel,
Switzerland. His father played oboe in Municipal
Orchestra and viola in amateur string quartet. His talent
appeared at four years old when he said 'That is G'
touching a note from piano. At 10 he entered Basel
Conservatory, moving to Berlin and was taught by Martin
Krause - Liszt's pupil and became Arrau's teacher later -
at Stern Conservatory(now Berlin Conservatory). He started to teach there after graduation
in 1905. Different from Backhaus, he
spent much time to teach pupils. He edited Bach, Mozart,
and Beethoven's works after original texts of them, wrote cadenzas of Mozart's and Beethoven's
Concerto, and composed his original works such as lieds
and piano works(much of them was not published). His
careers as conductor were Lübeck Gesellschaft der
Musik(1926), München Bach-Gesellschaft(1928), and
established Fischer Chamber Orchestra(many of the members
were that of the Berlin Philharmonic). In playing Bach's
concertos, he liked to conduct at piano.
He moved near to lake Lucerne(Swiss) after his home was destroyed by the Allies air raid in 1942, and was naturalized to Swiss. He conducted at Lucerne Summer Festival from then on, but was tortured by chronic blood high pressure which had him give up concert appearance in 1955. He continued to teach at Lucerne Conservatory from time to time, but was almost pararalysed late several months. He passed away at a hospital in Zürich on 24th January 1960.
He was very good teacher. Demus, Badura-Skoda, Barenboim, and Brendel are among his pupils. Alfred Brendel recalls "Edwin Fischer preferred demonstration to explanation again and again he would sit down himself at the piano. Those were the greatest, the most unforgettable impressions retained by his students." Badura-Skoda said "All he did were creative. I feel his genuine talents not be eminent in concert... Too nervous, he once refused to give concert of his own." He was so nervous by stage freight when young. Judging from the articles I have, there were not many audiences that could hear him relaxed and he did not like studio recording because it demands high tension. But his music and recordings overcame the bad condition and survived against flooding of the new recordings from now on.
His recording repertoire is only confined to from German baroque to romantic(in my incomplete discography, only 11 composers including Furtwängler), but his concert repertoire was not so narrow - Debussy, Medtner, Hindemith, Reger, Scriabin, Stravinsky and Schönberg(6 Klavierstücke), and Chopin, etc. Medtner himself said that one of the best performances he had heard of his Piano Sonata in e minor was that by Fischer in Paris in 1920s. As long as we hear him by records, his technique is less than that of Backhaus, Horowitz, etc. But his characteristic tone is so profound and even mysterious that almost all of modern pianists cannot match him in the individuality. His sonority is very beautiful and soft at pp, and tough but never noisy or rough at ff . His ff sonority was often depicted as 'weighty thing on velvet'. Pianist Denis Mattews, who could join Fischer in a recording as a third solist of Concerto for three cembalos(EMI CDH 7 64928 2), wrote impressive material ; "benevolently leonine... had the softness and strength of a lion's velvet paws". He also liked to conduct, the recordings with his chamber orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra shows his ambidexterity well. Elly Ney recalled a concert where she played solo of Brahms' Second Concerto and Fischer conducted. In his musical activity, piano solo was only one aspect and he was also good at chamber music(famous trio with Kulenkampf/Schneiderhan and Mainardi), and accompanist of lied.
Most of his
recordings are at very high level. There are many items
in Références series of EMI, in which Bach recordings are
very good. The complete set of 'Das Wohltemperiete
Klavier'(EMI, 1933~36) is really historical, in the both
chronical aspect(the first complete recording) and
playing quality - especially on musical fluences and
supreme sonority with individuality. Other Bach
recordings are Brandenburg Concertos(No.2 & 5),
Cembalo concertos(No.1,2,4,5 & for 3 cembalos), and
minor pieces, which contains Chromatic fantasy and fugue,
Fantasies, Chorale Preludes, Toccata, etc(all
EMI). This recording shows wonderful(!!) tone color,
romantic interpretation, and decisive and persuasive
concept of the pieces.
1) Miscellaneous photo (photo ; EMI)
2) Trio with Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Enrico Mainardi
(c) 1996~ , Youngrok LEE ; Link free, but please get my approval before you reuse, copy, or quote this materials.
Created ; 21st Jul. 2000