Wilhelm Backhaus       (Hanssler 94.203)
Item# P1112
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Wilhelm Backhaus       (Hanssler 94.203)
P1112. WILHELM BACKHAUS: Fantasia in C (Schumann), recorded 1939; w.Böhm Cond. SWR S.O.: Concerto #2 in B-flat (Brahms), recorded 1937. (Germany) Hänssler 94.203. - 4010276021513


“These vital, insightful performances by one of the great pianists of the 20th century include Backhaus' first recording of the Brahms Concerto and his only recording of the Schumann Fantasia in C Major. Wilhelm Backhaus was considered to be the last great representative of a classic German music tradition cultivated at the conservatory in his birthplace of Leipzig. Based on fabulous technical virtuosity, his playing was straightforward and without frills, persuasive and marked by great integrity.”

“Wilhelm Backhaus made a concert début in Leipzig at the age of eight, and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Reckendorf. In 1899 he left Leipzig to study with Eugène d'Albert in Frankfurt am Main. He made a major début tour in 1900 and quickly gained a fine reputation as a player and as a teacher. His American début was on 5 January, 1912, in New York, playing the Beethoven Piano ‘Emperor’ Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra. In 1930 he moved to Lugano and acquired Swiss citizenship. Backhaus established a teaching career there and continued to make concert tours throughout his long life. His last U.S. appearance was in New York in 1962, at age 78; reviews judged that his powers were undiminished. He died on 5 July, 1969, in Villach, Austria, where he had gone to make a concert appearance.

Especially during the later phase of his career he had a remarkably high reputation as a pianist whose devotion to the composer's intentions was total and unselfish. His performances were in the classic line of those that strove to present the music in one broadly viewed arc of concept and logic, embracing not just single movements but entire works. His recorded output ranges from Mozart through the main Classical and Romantic repertoire. It is not surprising that his work was particularly excellent when he encountered those composers who built large-scale, logically constructed classical works, such as Beethoven and Brahms; in reference to his recordings of such works, terms like ‘magisterial’, ‘exemplary’, and ‘direct’ have often been employed by reviewers. Late in his life he came to be regarded as a Beethoven specialist, and he recorded virtually the entire corpus of keyboard works of that master, as well as extensive groups of Brahms and Mozart, and works by Schumann, Grieg, Chopin, and Liszt, including concerti and solo works. He also made some chamber music recordings, notably of Brahms' cello sonatas with Pierre Fournier, and a notable account of the Schubert ‘Trout’ Quintet.”

- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com