A gentle start with Opus 49/1, a two-movement ‘short’ that Annie Fischer (1914-95) plays with finesse and shapely bounce, the first of these Sonata selections recorded as-live for broadcasting at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios between 1971 and 1987, two of the works captured on October 19, 1977, including the ‘Pastoral’, Opus 28, softly strummed at first, then developing vitality, and followed by an Andante that finds Fischer playing with an insouciance as if at home away from the pressures of red-light recording for the gramophone. The Scherzo sparkles with dynamic contrasts and the Finale is a walk in the park.

Opuses 109 and 111 are the remaining works – the former attractively improvisatory in the first movement (ink still wet); powerful, avoiding rush, in the second; and sublime in the Variations of the Finale, the Heaven-sent Theme straightforwardly addressed but with a depth of feeling that feeds and sustains what is to come, leading to an ecstatic trill-laden climax. As for the C-minor Sonata-ultimate, from the same session as the ‘Pastoral’, the first movement (with exposition repeat) is fiery from within, pulsating, and the ‘Arietta’ second with its variants, not least jazzy visions, is profound.

The recorded sound is excellent – tangible and natural, Paul Baily finding an ideal balance between a smidgen of hiss and the piano’s true tones. ICA Classics ICAC 5165.


RELEASED TODAY, April 22: ICA Classics issues Sir Adrian Boult conducting Vaughan Williams’s Fifth & Sixth Symphonies from BBC Proms in 1972 & 1975.