The cover of this double CD, with its impassive "perspectives" label, seems to contain no information about the contents, but in fact the performances involved are just about as neutral as the cover. Swiss-born, American-trained pianist Andreas Haefliger, the son of famed tenor Ernst Haefliger, states that he intends the Perspectives series as "a document of my concert activity" that "aims at bringing the recital experience to the living room." "In creative programming," he said, "I have always seen an opportunity for illuminating the individuality of works by placing them in tonal, dramatic, and historic relief." Where to begin? This is not, as might be supposed, a live concert recording, but the hour and a half made up by the two discs are of recital length. Listeners and especially radio presenters should note that the pieces and movements are divided by long pauses, as in a live recital. The two Beethoven sonatas on disc one and Schubert's sonata swan song, the Piano Sonata in B flat major, D. 960, are probably heard together several dozen times a year around the world and in no way constitute "creative programming." There is no doubt that Schubert was mightily influenced by Beethoven, but the specific connections alleged in the booklet notes by Jane Vial Jaffe are debatable at best. Haefliger's performances are technically unimpeachable, seemingly almost effortless physically even at a fairly quick tempo. They are very much on the reserved side, with impressively smooth surfaces but a markedly reserved treatment of the the finale of the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (call it "Depressa" rather than "Appassionata"), with the inner lines clearly elucidated but delivered without a hint of struggle. Haefliger has focused on Mozart in earlier recordings, and his Beethoven is in something of a Mozartian vein, with easy, liquid clarity that offers little emotional engagement but gains a hypnotic quality over time that also works especially well in the Andante sostenuto second movement of the Schubert. This non-recital will appeal most to fans of the conservative traditions of Beethoven interpretation from Germany and Central Europe, and it may be that Haefliger is smart to fill that niche in an age of highly individualistic Beethoven readings.
Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major ("Pastoral"), Op. 28|
|Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor ("Appassionata"), Op. 57|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D. 960|