The pianists Edwin Fischer and Artur Schnabel occupy an important space in music making of the first half of the twentieth century. They dominated the central European concert scene until their deaths mid-century and their recordings remain treasured documents.
While the two pianists shared a somewhat similar aesthetic approach to music making, especially with regard to the core concepts that structure coherence and sound production take precedent over technical perfection, their artistic temperaments couldn’t have been more different.
Without oversimplifying these towering artist’s personae, Schnabel was a modernist, someone who thrived in the cultural milieu of his day. Like the great conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Schnabel was also a composer, writing music that was very much of the 20th century.
Artur Schnabel Symphonies №1 -3
Fischer was a true romantic who enjoyed rediscovering the music of the past and bringing it to life. He was one of the first musicians who was interested in performing the music of the Baroque and Classical periods in an historically accurate way and was also a conductor of some ability.
Mozart Piano Concerto №25, Edwin Fischer, pianist and conductor, Vienna Philharmonic.
Fischer’s performances always had a poet’s viewpoint, constantly striving to find and convey the emotion behind the notes, while at the same time keeping us on the narrative path set by the composer. Schnabel’s performances revealed a composer’s attention to structure and detail, revealing to the listener a cathedral of sounds and intention.
Let’s compare their recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata №23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata"
Here are my favorite recordings of both pianists, indispensable every one.