Géza Anda was Hungarian born, but for most of short life his career was centered in German-speaking lands: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. One of the ways in which Anda's fame was initially established was through his work for South German radio, the SDR and SWF, which merged in 1998 into SWR. The recordings on Hänssler Classic's Géza Anda spielt Haydn, Schumann, Ravel, Liebermann, Chopin, Brahms (aka, Géza Anda Solo Recitals Vol. II) all derive from the archives of the SWR and date from the late first and early second decades of Anda's recorded career; 1950 and 1951 broadcasts from Stuttgart on the first disc and a 1955 recital from Ludwigsburg. As for sound quality, the 1950-1951 dates are bright, constricted, and somewhat grainy like most German mono recordings belonging to the early '50s; the Ludwigsburg tape is better, warmer with more of a sense of presence. All of the tapes betray some measure of flutter. That the quality of ingestion of the music and interpretation varies should not come as a surprise; this is early Anda and he hadn't quite formed his core repertoire yet, based upon Mozart, Bartók, Beethoven, and Schumann, and here he is still feeling his way to some extent. All of this material is new to public release except for the Ludwigsburg Chopin Etudes, Op. 25, which were released on an Ariola LP belonging to yet another series of Anda that appeared in 1980.
The liner notes supply some very useful contextual information in regard to Anda though one must take them with a grain of salt; in some spots the author is so highly opinionated that it makes some patently ridiculous claims, such as "Since 1945 there has, in fact, been a specialization among pianists continuing to the present day, and only a few virtuosi have regularly included contemporary music in their programmes." This is in reference to the fact that Anda only ever adopted one post-1945 work, Rolf Liebermann's Piano Sonata, into his repertoire. It is heard here, a twelve-tone piece that has considerable rhythmic vigor, though by the standards of 1951 it was already a bit old-fashioned. Anda plays it well, and it's not too far off his typical handling of Bartók, but to suggest that his reticence to take on post-1945 piano literature represents a unified front against contemporary music among virtuosi is asinine. The annotator takes the tack that everything in this collection is as good as gold, but there are some things that are less than awesome. Anda's Valses nobles et Sentimentales is riddled with little slips, shortcuts, and things dropped out, such as is typical of the 1950s; the most difficult Ravel pieces are works best mastered by later generations of pianists. Likewise, the Ludwigsburg date does not represent his best take on the Schumann Carnaval, but the 1951 Symphonic Etudes is outstanding. The Chopin Ballade in G minor from Ludwigsburg is restless and impetuous, but the previously released Chopin Etudes, Op. 25, performance from that same date is quite good. So this Hänssler Classic is a mixed bag, and some things on it are well worth investigating, though the listener is perhaps better served by Anda collections already available on Testament and DG; this one is for specialists.