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Perspectives 7: Works by Berg, Beethoven, Liszt & Mussorgsky

Andreas Haefliger (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Andreas Haefliger: Perspectives 7
Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1; Beethoven: Sonata No. 28 in A, Op. 101; Liszt: Legende No. 1; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Andreas Haefliger (piano)
BIS BIS-2307 (hybrid CD/SACD) 86:54 mins

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There’s much to admire in Andreas Haefliger’s imaginative recital series of Perspectives which places a Beethoven Sonata within the framework of other piano repertory. In this beautifully recorded seventh volume, I was particularly struck by the unexpected musical interconnections that result from such juxtapositions. A good example is the use of chorale which links Liszt’s ‘St Francis preaching to the birds’, ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ from Musorgsky’s Pictures and the slow movement of Beethoven’s Op. 101. Likewise, the impulsive expressiveness of the Berg Sonata draws much from the fluidity and subtle transformation of melodic and harmonic line that characterises the opening movement in Op. 101.

Haefliger’s rich and varied tonal colouring provides tremendous musical rewards in the Berg, which matches structural lucidity with suitably intense changes of mood and tempo. The coruscating flourishes in the Liszt are vividly despatched, and once again a seemingly improvisatory approach to rubato conceals a real sense of direction and purpose to the performance. A good deal of the Beethoven is really impressive and thoughtful, with some marvellously humorous touches in the finale. However, Haefliger lingers perhaps too much in the opening movement. Although he gets to the heart of Beethoven’s marking ‘mit der innighsten Empfindung’, the halting tempo is surely a bit too slow for the prescribed Allegretto, ma non troppo.

Placing such a palpably un-Germanic work as Musorgsky’s Pictures immediately after the Beethoven might appear as something of a culture shock, but in this instance, there’s no need to press the pause button for a few moments of respite. The most striking aspect of Haefliger’s performance is his astonishingly inventive approach to the Promenades, each of which reflects a very different and contrasting psychological response. The individual movements are also powerfully and imaginatively projected, though Haefliger’s ‘Gnomus’ could perhaps be more malevolent in tone, matching the ferocity and physical excitement of his ‘Babi-Yaga’.

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Erik Levi