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Géza Anda (1921-76)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata No.7 in D major, Op.10 No.3 [20:17]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Symphonic Études (in the form of variations), Op.13 [21:55]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)

Suite for Piano, Sz62 (Op.14) [9:25]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35 [18:39]
Géza Anda (piano)
Rec. Freemason’s Hall, Edinburgh Festival, 23 August 1955. ADD

I was at first a little sceptical that Bryce Morrison had inserted into the CD notes an unabashedly extolling review of this concert. However, as I lent a cautious ear I could not but add to his delirious praise. We must forgive the impoverished live-recording sound quality but with that to one side we have here some truly remarkable playing.

The Hungarian pianist Géza Anda (1921-76) is highly acclaimed for his interpretations of Mozart and Bartók. On this occasion one would be hard pressed to choose between all four composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Bartók and Schumann. Anda’s celebrated musical individuality – captured in essence by Furtwängler’s "singing pianist" caricature – renders even the most challenging sonorities a lyrical pleasure. Within a framework of emotional tenderness and humanity, Anda breathes life across a generous gamut of musical expression.

Beethoven's early sonata flows with majestic ease. Anda resists the reckless spirit such tempestuous music invites and with the utmost grace his controlled energy bears a profounder impact than any amount of virtuosic posturing.

A wonderful alternation between apparent nonchalance and impassioned vigour maintains a vivid and engaging picture in the opening Presto. The Lento is remarkable for Anda’s simple touch that at the same time narrates a deeply psychological plot. A charming Trio propositions a sprightlier touch to the smoothness of its mothering Menuetto. Inexhaustible resources of colour and sensations over a grounding certainty of technical mastery speak for Anda’s highly personalised and soulful drama . The dextrous fingerwork in the Rondo is particularly impressive.

The tremendous orchestral proportions of Schumann’s études play just as effortlessly as the Beethoven. For every étude there is a different attack, ranging from flying spiccato (no.3) to forceful staccato (no.4) to fiery cascading (no.6) to a breathtaking finale that builds in grandeur and speed towards a mighty crash. More impressive, however, is that through all the technical challenges, Anda’s musicality reigns supreme.

From Bartók one might expect a ruder, folk-like humour but Anda’s sophisticated touch evens out any coarseness. It is left to the musical notation to deliver any crudity, such as the jilted figurations of the Allegretto and the barbaric juxtaposition of dense and flighty textures in the Scherzo. Anda refrains from caricaturing the Bartókian idiosyncrasies so that the tranquil Sostenuto following the mayhem of a turbulent agitation is genuinely felt.

And finally for a second set of variations – this time Brahms’s spin on Paganini’s famous 24th Caprice for violin. If the violin be the instrument of the devil, then the piano has excellent grounds here for contesting the myth! Terrifying pianistic acrobatics stem from the boldly asserted opening theme and yet Anda makes little fuss over the relentless work-out. The theme never fails to sing out triumphantly from the densities and complexities of the constantly-morphing textures. Musicality is complete.

Aline Nassif

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