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Hyperion Records

APR7302 - Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
Front cover photograph courtesy of Malcolm Binns.

Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 233 minutes 1 seconds

Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
No 4 in A flat major: Allegretto  [4'01]  recorded 3 June 1924
Barberini's Minuet  [3'19]  recorded 17 June 1924
Motley and Flourish  [2'58]  recorded 17 June 1924
Adagio sostenuto  [4'53]  recorded 13 July 1926
Allegretto  [2'23]  recorded 13 July 1926
Presto agitato  [4'52]  recorded 13 July 1926
Allegro assai  [8'08]  recorded 10 May 1927
Andante con moto  [4'41]  recorded 10 May 1927
Allegro ma non troppo  [4'51]  recorded 10 May 1927
Première valse Op 83  [3'10]  August Durand (1830-1909)  recorded 8 June 1925
No 2 in D major: Ausserst rasch und mit Bravour  [4'47]  recorded 8 April 1929
No 3: A major  [3'16]  recorded 22 March 1929
Allegro maestoso  [6'49]  recorded 1939
Andante espressivo  [9'01]  recorded 1939
Scherzo: Allegro energico  [4'17]  recorded 1939
Intermezzo: Andante molto  [3'49]  recorded 1939
Finale: Allegro moderato ma rubato  [6'59]  recorded 1939
No 3: F minor  [2'21]  recorded 1939
No 4 in A major: Schnell und beweglich  [3'04]  recorded 1939
No 1 in B flat minor: Sehr markirt  [3'11]  recorded 1939
Rêverie L76  [3'36]  Claude Debussy (1862-1918)  recorded 1939
Book 1 No 1: Des Abends  [4'30]  recorded 1935
Book 1 No 2: Aufschwung  [3'14]  recorded 1935
Book 1 No 3: Warum?  [3'36]  recorded 1935
Book 1 No 4: Grillen  [2'55]  recorded 1935
Book 2 No 1: In der Nacht  [4'25]  recorded 1935
Book 2 No 2: Fabel  [2'39]  recorded 1935
Book 2 No 3: Traumes Wirren  [2'39]  recorded 1935
Book 2 No 4: Ende vom Lied  [3'57]  recorded 1935
No 2 in D major: Ausserst rasch und mit Bravour  [5'16]  recorded 9 January 1942
Albumblatt  [3'43]  Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)  recorded 8 January 1942
No 3: A major  [3'13]  recorded 8 January 1942
No 1: A flat major  [1'56]  recorded 8 January 1942
No 1: Butterfly  [1'55]  recorded 8 January 1942
No 6: To the Spring  [3'02]  recorded 8 January 1942
No 3: Allegretto con grazia  [1'51]  recorded 8 January 1942

This is a recording from Appian Publications & Recordings Ltd (to quote the full title)—the label invariably more familiarly known simply as "APR".

Since its foundation in 1986, APR has won an enviable reputation as a quality label devoted predominantly—though not exclusively—to historic piano recordings. In particular APR has won countless laurels for the high standard of its 78rpm restoration work—"Transfers of genius" to quote one critic—as well as the detail and content of its booklets.

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The English pianist Harold Bauer was born in 1873 in New Malden, a suburb of London. The child of musical parents, Bauer first studied the violin, making his debut on this instrument at the age of ten. Later, at Paderewski’s suggestion, Bauer moved to Paris to study the violin with Wladyslaw Górski. He later assisted Paderew­ski in his preparation of some piano concertos by playing the orchestral part on a second piano and Paderewski was so impressed with his talent as a pianist that from this point Bauer decided to focus on the piano instead of the violin. Paderewski coached him, though never gave him formal lessons, and helped him to get engagements. In 1899 he toured Scan­dina­via and the Netherlands and played with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Hans Richter. More concerts followed in Europe, and Bauer made his US debut in 1900 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing Brahms’s Piano Concerto No 1. His success in America led to him settling there and taking US citizenship in 1917.

Bauer’s most successful period as a solo pianist was from the turn of the twentieth century through to the 1920s when he toured Europe, Australia, America, the Far East and Middle East, becoming especially associated with the music of Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven. In 1919 Bauer founded the Beet­hoven Society of New York, originally to further the lesser-known works of the composer. During the 1920s, he began to play more chamber music, often collaborating with Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, Mischa Elman and Fritz Kreisler. Maurice Ravel dedicated ‘Ondine’, the first movement of his Gaspard de la nuit, to Bauer, who also gave the New York premiere of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major.

During the 1930s, Bauer devoted more time to teaching, particularly as head of the Manhattan School of Music’s piano depart­ment, remaining on its board of advisors until his death in 1951. Bauer edited piano music for Schirmer by composers such as Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Sibelius, Schubert and Schumann, and made transcriptions and arrangements of Bach, Brahms and Haydn among others.

Bauer’s first records were made for Victor in 1924, and fortunately only two sides were made by the old acoustic process before Victor began recording electrically. At five sessions during May and June of 1925 he recorded four pieces – Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu Op 66, waltzes by August Durand and Eduard Schütt, and Saint-Saëns’s Caprice sur les airs de ballet Alceste de Gluck. Because the electrical process was very new, the Victor engineers were obviously experimenting and needed time to adjust their equipment. Bauer had to record these four works many times; in the case of the Durand Waltz he made twelve attempts, the Chopin ten and the Schütt and Saint-Saëns pieces, nine. In the end, all four issued takes were made at the same session on 8 June 1925.

Bauer had used Mason & Hamlin pianos for many years and it is interesting to note that for his 1925 sessions he used a Steinway, possibly at the request of the recording engineers, but for the subsequent Victor recordings he used a Mason & Hamlin.

A year later when he came to record Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata things had not improved much. The recording of the sonata and a filler of a Beethoven gavotte in Bauer’s own arrangement took five sessions between April and July of 1926. Bauer had fourteen attempts at recording the famous first movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. In his 1948 autobiography, His Book, Bauer relates a story about how when Victor asked him to record the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata he had his doubts that the first movement would fit onto one side of a twelve-inch 78rpm disc. ‘I played it through and it took just over five minutes. The limit was four minutes and forty seconds.’ He tried playing it faster, thought of making a cut or splitting the movement between two sides, but none of these provided an acceptable solution. Whilst in the San Francisco Public Library he consulted the score for some sort of enlightenment. ‘The edition was an unfamiliar one, and the time signature – two-two – was so unusual that it caught my eye at once.’ After consulting many other editions, including the first edition, Bauer decided to play it alla breve, as two beats in the bar rather than four, resulting in a faster tempo. ‘I made the phono­graph record in four minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and have never reverted to the slow tempo, which today seems an absurdity to me.’ The edition Bauer used for the recording was Steingräber Verlag, Leipzig and, in spite of Bauer’s statement to the contrary, the recording lasts almost four minutes and fifty-five seconds!

By 1927 the Victor engineers seem to have become more comfortable with the electrical process of recording and Bauer was able to record Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ Sonata in one day, 10 May 1927, making four takes of each side, a far more usual number for both technical and artistic reasons. A year later in May 1928 Bauer recorded four titles including his own arrangement of the Bach chorale Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and an excellent version of Liszt’s Concert Etude Un sospiro. He would record it again in 1942, but this earlier version shows so many of Bauer’s fine attributes as a pianist – the sonorous, unforced tone, the virtuosity never on display for its own sake, expert control of dynamics and a subtle understanding of phrasing.

During three sessions in April and May of 1929 Bauer recorded five works, one of which (a Scarlatti sonata) was not issued. Having observed that Bauer had to record many takes of some works in the early days of electrical recording, it is interesting to see that at these sessions he recorded the Brahms Capriccio six times and the Schumann Novellette nine times, so it would appear that a high number of takes was perhaps not always due to technical and mechanical problems. Bauer was obviously quite fastidious about his recordings and took great pains to get exactly the result he wanted. The results are evident in that each issued recording is like a perfectly polished jewel.

The stock market crash of 1929 put an end to Bauer’s and many other musicians’ recording activities and it was not until November 1934, when Bauer was in London, that he made another recording, this time for Victor’s affiliate HMV. At their studios in Abbey Road Bauer recorded Schumann’s complete Fantasiestücke Op 12 on a Steinway piano. It is one of the finest versions of this intimate cycle on disc, in which Bauer seems to get right to the heart of the music. The session was obviously successful as Bauer made single takes of five of the eight sides and only a second take of the remaining three.

The American music-publishing firm Schirmer had employed Bauer as an editor of piano music and during the 1930s was expanding by creating its own record label. Bauer recorded ten short pieces for them, but it is the complete recording of Brahms’s Piano Sonata No 3 in F minor, Op 5, that is the most important as it is the only recording of Bauer in a large-scale extended work that we have. It is also far more technically demanding than many of the short works he recorded. The other ten sides recorded for Schirmer are of scores Bauer had edited, such as Chopin’s Berceuse and Debussy’s rarely heard Rêverie. All have rather poor sound yet it is interesting to hear Bauer in varied repertoire including a Bach Prelude and Fugue and an impressive Mendelssohn Characterstück, a work that was once quite popular with pianists.

Bauer’s Schirmer sessions were made with Europe on the brink of war and his last recording sessions for Victor in New York were made on 8 and 9 January 1942, a month after the attack on Pearl Harbour. On the first day Bauer recorded nine short works by Grieg of which only two were issued at the time. Bauer wrote in His Book: ‘I met Grieg at the home of my dear friend Julius Röntgen in Amsterdam … later, I met him and his wife again in London, where he was acclaimed by an enormous audience. He played, with the violinist Johannes Wolff, his Sonata in C minor, and also accompanied Madame Grieg in two groups of songs, which she sang charmingly with a flute-like voice. Then he played a number of short compositions, and the public was most enthusiastic.’ The following day Bauer recorded one more work by Grieg and two of Liszt’s Concert Etudes – Waldes­rauschen and another recording of Un sospiro. This was Bauer’s swansong in the recording studio. He was almost seventy years old and would spend the last years of his life in retirement in Miami.

Bauer was not a virtuoso, yet he could not be described as a miniaturist. He was interested in making a beautiful sound at the keyboard and aligning it to an innate sensi­ti­vity and musicianship. New York critic James Huneker expressed it perfectly when he wrote: ‘He is a musician for whom the message of the composer is the primary consideration. There is a violin tone in his touch, the warmest, mellow tone heard since Paderewski. His fingers always sing, whether in velocity or cantabile passages and there is above all a strong sense of mentality – a sense of historical value – and at times a colour sense becomes overpowering, suggesting Pachmann in his most sensuous mood.’

Jonathan Summers © 2008

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