Annie Fischer was a Hungarian-Jewish pianist of great renown. Although an unfamiliar musician to Americans, her passion for music and excellent performance ability were greatly admired by her contemporaries. Fischer left behind a wealth of recordings, some from the studio and many from her live performances.
The Determined Pianist, Annie Fischer
Annie Fischer was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1914 and showed great talent from an early age. Even as a child, she was able to play melodies on the piano from memory that the average adult would struggle with. She gave her concert debut at age 10, and this began a career of regularly presenting fantastic performances. She achieved international renown in her career, and mainly toured through Europe.
At age 19, Fischer won the inaugural International Liszt Piano competition, which took place in Budapest in 1933. Following her victory in the competition, Fischer was invited to perform in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, and many other countries. In the 30s, before commercial flight and when people still primarily travelled long distances by train, to tour so many different countries at a young age was quite an achievement. She would perform regularly in Europe until the onset of World War II. To avoid persecution, she and her husband fled to Sweden and she performed throughout Scandinavia until finally returning back home to Hungary at the conclusion of WWII.
After returning to Hungary, Fischer continued her career as a touring artist on a much larger scale than her pre-WWII years. She performed in practically all major European cities like Leipzig, Munich, Paris, London, Milan, and many more. Although she was likely concerned with only sharing music with as many people as possible, her touring would have a long-standing impact on generations of pianists because many of her concerts were recorded. Several award-winning pianists have made statements about Fischer’s influence on their playing.
English pianist Peter Donohoe remembers listening to recordings at an early age. “It was her recording of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto that had a profound influence on me when I was learning the work for the first time at 12…” Hungarian-born British pianist and conductor Andras Schiff was able to see Fischer perform live as a child, “Annie Fischer was wonderful, she was my Idol…the first time I heard she played was the Schubert sonata, when I was a small child. It was superb.” These are just two internationally known pianists who drew inspiration from Fischer’s vibrant interpretations of the classical repertoire. Her influence is likely felt by many pianists still today.
In the 50s, Fischer started recording commercially to create studio recordings of the classical repertoire. She was said to be extremely particular, constantly pushing herself to get the best version of whichever piece she was recording. She was such a perfectionist that she gave explicit instructions for her recordings of the complete collection of Beethoven’s piano sonatas to remain unreleased until her after death. Her 15-year recording project of these sonatas was well worth the wait, however, as the set is thought to be her greatest legacy.
These legendary recordings can be heard on Spotify, here: