OBITUARY: Annie Fischer

It seems fitting that the great Hungarian pianist Annie Fischer should have died while listening to a broadcast performance of Bach's St John Passion. Until her final years she was an inveterate concert- and opera-goer. Fischer's profound love of music and her enthusiasm for life were reflected in her playing. She communicated great physical, emotional and spiritual energy, warmth and generosity.

Fischer was also a player of immense honesty. It was surprising and exciting to hear such intense power emanating from her small, elegant frame. In Beethoven and Schumann, above all, her work was unmatchable. Her interpretation of Beethoven was an ideal fusion of the intellectual and the humane. The balance she maintained between form and content, while keeping an appar- ently effortless freedom of expression, was reminiscent of Wilhelm Furtwngler; her command of Beethoven's thought process was comparable to Artur Schnabel's. Her playing of Schumann sounded so fresh, tender and spontaneous as to be almost improvised. She made his music seem newly discovered.

None of this, though, would have been possible without her extraordinary pianism, her amazingly strong and supple technique. She certainly did not practise compulsively, but her preparation for performance was dedicated and concentrated. I remember listening to her practising, for hours on end, the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata Op 14 No 2 and hearing her delve deeper and deeper into this relatively slight work.

Annie Fischer studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with Ernst von Dohnnyi to whose influence she in later years attributed her remarkable range and control of sonority. Even as a small child she displayed an instinctive, unfailing grasp of harmonic progression. She made her dbut at the age of eight in Beethoven's C major Concerto and won the first International Liszt Competition in Budapest in 1933. (The piano pedagogue Maria Curcio told me that Fischer learnt the E flat Concerto in only three weeks.) Three years later she married Aladar Toth, the eminent musicologist and later director of the Budapest Opera. Their marriage was extremely happy; Annie Fischer derived great inspiration from Toth's support and guidance.

Fischer was Jewish and the Toths spent the second half of the Second World War in Sweden. They were unable to travel abroad, and this was the only period in Fischer's life when she taught on a regular basis. She was as demanding of her pupils as of herself and she concentrated on the repertoire closest to her own heart: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Bartk. Lessons went on without regard for the clocks and were often followed by lengthy sessions when Toth took over and introduced the students to the masterworks of opera.

In 1946 the couple returned to Hungary and Fischer resumed her international career. She played all over Europe, in the United States, Canada, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand and was frequently heard at the main music festivals including Edinburgh, Holland, Prague and Salzburg. On three occasions she won the most prestigious Hungarian State award, the Kossuth Prize.

Fischer hated recording but made some outstanding discs of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. Inexplicably, very few of these are at present available.

For many years her appearances were highlights of the London concert season where her audiences invariably included a large proportion of fellow pianists. A feature of her performances was that one could remember them in great detail many years later. Her last London recital was in June 1992 when she concluded a Beethoven / Schumann programme at the Royal Festival Hall with a magisterial account of the Fugue from the "Hammerklavier" Sonata played as an encore.

Niel Immelman

Annie Fischer, pianist: born Budapest 5 July 1914; married 1936 Aladar Toth (died 1968); died Budapest 10 April 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone