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Hyperion Records

CDA66790 - Sauer & Scharwenka: Piano Concertos
CDA66790

Recording details: December 1994
Dudley Town Hall, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: September 1995
Total duration: 69 minutes 11 seconds

GRAMOPHONE RECORDING OF THE YEAR 1996
CLASSIC CD AWARD WINNER
CLASSIC CD 100 GREATEST DISCS OF THE DECADE

'Here, surely, is the jewel in the crown of Hyperion's absorbing series … A flawless marriage of composer, performance, recording and presentation … For here is a scintillating wit and ebullience that will make lesser technicians and stylists weep with envy … As magisterial as it is ear … tickling and affectionate, his playing glows with warmth…and pulses with the most nonchalant glitter in the finale … [Sauer] Throughout, haunting melodies are embroidered with the finest pianistic tracery and, once again, the performance is bewitching … [Sauer Cavatina] Hough’s caressing, fine … spun tone and long … breathed phrasing are a model for singers as well as pianists (Gramophone)

'A first class Hyperion recording.' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Stephen Hough’s punchy, glittering account [of the Scharwenka] is electrifying, his precision and rhythmic élan, especially in the terrifying finale, is beyond praise' (International Record Review)

'These are two bracing works that set the pulse racing and heart soaring without any help from saccharin … Hough’s playing combines bravura and poetry in what the critics call "pure pianism"' (The Sunday Times)

'A glitteringly worthy addition to the Hyperion series … Stephen Hough exhibits dazzling flair in showpiece concertos by Sauer and Scharwenka – and plenty of stamina … Hough plays throughout with exhilarating momentum and dazzling technical address. I doubt whether any CD has so many double octave passages as this, but he never wearies, and his response to both works is as many-sided as the music itself … Not to be missed, on any account’ (Classic CD)

'Here are two long-neglected piano concertos that will thrill and delight you … Stephen Hough’s playing of it confirms his place as one of the half dozen greatest piano technicians of our time … Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto survey has never had a more distinguished protagonist than Stephen Hough' (Fanfare, USA)

'This Gramophone Award-winning disc thrills from start to finish … Hough’s meticulously voiced and glistening pianism really takes some believing considering the technical pressure exerted by these caruscatingly ingenious scores … Anyone who has yet to catch up with this remarkable disc should do so without delay' (International Piano)

'Virtuosity as impish as it is magisterial … [he] wings his way through every good-humoured page with a poetic and technical zest that takes us back to the great pianists of the past; to a golden age of piano playing' (BBC CD Review)

'Emotions run high, melody runs vibrantly and virtuoso playing takes the breath away … Hough rises fabulously to every demand with big-boned sound and grand-scale musical vision, jousting at full strength with the robust playing of the CBSO … It might seem unlikely for two obscure piano concertos to achieve such success at the Gramophone Awards, but this disc richly deserved its prize and remains one of Hyperion’s best releases to date' (Amazon.co.uk)

'The pianism of Hough leaves one breathless. His technique is fabulous, and tasteful phrasing wonderfully sensitive to the needs of the period … Musts for fans of 19th-century virtuosity' (In Tune, Japan)

‘this excellent recording allows us to listen, for the first time, to two neglected romantic concertos. It is hard to understand how two works of such bravura and of such calibre as these, that sound so immediately appealing, have remained forgotten for so long. Fortunately, the superlative quality of these versions compensates in excess for the wait … Stephen Hough performs memorably in both of these scores. A pianist of the subtlest musicality and unsurpassable technical resources – a powerful sound, clear and precise fingerings, insurmountable octave playing, enormous dynamic range – he knows how to lend eloquence and fluidity to his splendid musical discourse’ (Classica, France)

The Romantic Piano Concerto
Sauer & Scharwenka: Piano Concertos
Allegro patetico  [18'34]
Lento, mesto  [7'24]
Allegro patetico  [10'56]

Scharwenka was one of the most beloved of musical figures during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His Concerto No 4 in F minor, written in 1908, was greeted at its premiere with astonishing enthusiasm from an audience ‘which may, without exaggeration, be said to have included almost every pianist – virtuoso, teacher and student – in Berlin’. Two years later Scharwenka was to give his first performance of the work at a concert in New York. The conductor was Gustav Mahler. Emil Von Sauer’s compositions have suffered from an even greater neglect, wholly unjustifiable, than Scharwenka’s. The E minor Concerto had already gone through eight printings by 1908 when he performed it in Chicago: “It was no matter for astonishment that when the pianist-composer had brought the work to its conclusion a storm of genuine enthusiasm should seep the house from gallery to floor … Mr Sauer represents a school of piano-playing that has all but vanished. The pianists who are now moulding the taste of the public are, one and all, engaged in the questionable task of reproducing with their instruments effects that are orchestral … but in the meantime we are in danger of forgetting the joys of pure pianism. To such joys Mr Sauer has awakened us.” Two first recordings, played by one of the greatest virtuoso pianists today.


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Dohnányi: Piano Concertos
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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It is easy to forget that Franz Xaver Scharwenka (1850–1924) was one of the most beloved of musical figures during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The list of great composers, pianists, and conductors who admired and performed his music includes Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Brahms, Busoni and Hans Richter.

‘He was a singularly handsome man of gallant bearing, giving one the impression that he should conduct his lessons in full and gorgeous uniform’, recalled Philip Hale, critic for the Boston Herald. A friend of the composer wrote: ‘To think of Scharwenka is to recall stories of mirrored salons illuminated by candle-light, of gallant gentlemen wearing many a decoration, and lovely ladies whose persons were freighted with priceless jewels … it was in the glittering atmosphere of courts, of aristocratic art patronage, of fine manners and elegant deportment that Scharwenka found his niche as a pianist, composer and teacher … as court pianist to the Emperor of Austria and as a favourite of the King of Prussia (Emperor Wilhelm II).’

He was largely self-taught as a pianist until his family moved to Berlin in 1865, when he was enrolled in Theodor Kullak’s Neue Akademie der Tonkunst. He studied piano and composition with Kullak and Richard Würst respectively, and made such rapid progress that he was invited to join Kullak’s teaching staff after completing his studies in 1868. He made his first public appearance in Berlin on 29 November 1869 at the Singakademie performing Mendelssohn’s D minor Piano Concerto. (In that same city, fifty years later—to the day—his Golden Jubilee was celebrated with a concert of his works. Among those taking part was a sixteen-year-old Claudio Arrau, who performed the master’s Theme with Variation, Op 48.)

Although he left this teaching post in 1873, first for military duty and thereafter to pursue a career as a touring virtuoso, he was a dedicated pedagogue throughout his life, opening his own conservatory in Berlin in 1881 (eventually housing forty-two sound-proof studios, sixty-two teachers, and a thousand students), and a New York branch of the same in 1891. ‘After Scharwenka,’ asked Busoni when Edward Weiss had come to study with him, ‘what can I do for you?’

His views on piano study were refreshingly practical and level-headed. ‘I am told much about a correct “method”. There is no one such: there are merely methodical ways of doing things. Nor can I give any sort of definite answer to the flat-footed question as to whether this or that is the only correct hand or finger position. Some people have long fingers, some people have short ones … the pianist who reaches the top is the one who uses this [tapping forehead], not the one who places all his confidence in these [twirling his fingers].’

As a performer he had a rich and successful career spanning over fifty years. A contemporary account tells us that ‘as a pianist Xaver Scharwenka is renowned above all qualities for the beautiful quality of his tone, which is rich, round, yet great and singing, for which it is difficult to name another living pianist as his equal. His power is enormous, yet he never bangs, and has no mannerisms, his arms and body appearing to be almost entirely without movement.’ The English pianist Bettina Walker wrote in her memoirs that ‘his playing was, as compared to Sgambati, as sculpture when compared to painting. There was an element of great and massive grandeur, a tremendous force of will, and a fervent glow of imagination.’ He made seven acoustical recordings for Columbia and a large number of piano rolls. The former fully bear out the critical estimation of his playing: a robust virility combined with a tone of great sweetness and charm.

Today Scharwenka is remembered, when he is remembered at all, for a piece he wrote in 1869, the Polish Dance in E flat minor, Op 3 No 1. He would later write several more sets of Polish Dances, the best of which easily stand comparison with Chopin’s Mazurkas, but it was this one which was inescapably linked in the public’s mind with Scharwenka, much as the Minuet in G to Paderewski and the C sharp minor Prelude to Rachmaninov. ‘That fatal Polish romp’, as the critic Carl Engel referred to it was sold outright by Scharwenka for five dollars and appeared in arrangements for every conceivable instrumental permutation, earning nearly a million dollars for its publishers Breitkopf and Härtel before succumbing, in Engel’s words, ‘to the revitalizing ministrations of our jazz-hounds’.

Whatever one may say about the Polish Dance (Scharwenka later referred to it as ‘My foolish Dance’) the fact remains that it did open doors for the young musician. In 1870, upon learning that Liszt himself had not only been charmed by the Polish Dance but had actually expressed a desire to meet the composer, he immediately borrowed twenty thalers from Kullak and journeyed to Liszt’s residence in Weimar. He was met at the door by Spiridon, Liszt’s valet, who asked for a visiting card. ‘I did not have my card case with me,’ Scharwenka recalled, ‘but wait—a brilliant thought came. Inside my collapsible high-crowned hat, in place of the usual monogram, I had pasted the opening bars of my Polish Dance in order to avoid any mix-up with other, similar “toppers”. I snapped the hat shut with an audible click and handed the now presentable lid to Spiridon—who was chuckling somewhat maliciously—with the request that he deliver the unusual visiting card to his lord and master. He did as I asked and soon the door opened—Liszt stood there before me laughing heartily with his arms outstretched. Joyfully I ran to him. He, the unforgettable, had not forgotten; simply by his glancing at the few measures in the hat, he remembered my name. He invited me into his inner sanctum and, with the kindliest interest, asked me about all that I was doing.’ One friend remembers that ‘Liszt had Scharwenka play to him for hours, particularly the young man’s compositions’. Later, in 1877, Liszt was especially delighted with the B flat minor Concerto No 1 which was dedicated to him, and performed it at the residence of Minister von Schleinitz. Tchaikovsky also had a high opinion of this piece saying that it stood out from the grey mediocrity of much that was then being written; and Mahler’s only recorded appearance as soloist in a piano concerto was on 20 October 1877 playing the first movement of this same B flat minor concerto in Vienna.

In the year 1908, after a long interval, I had the urge to buy some manuscript paper with a beautiful, fine, smooth surface that seemed just the right thing to be used. It became a piano concerto with orchestra—my fourth—in F minor …

This concerto, the finest of Scharwenka’s four—and a work for which he especially wished to be remembered—was first performed on 31 October 1908 in the Beethovensaal, Berlin. The soloist was Scharwenka’s pupil, and later assistant, Martha Siebold, and Scharwenka himself conducted. The correspondent of the London Musical Times reported that ‘the hall was crowded by an audience which may, without exaggeration, be said to have included almost every pianist—virtuoso, teacher and student—in Berlin. The work, which was received with tremendous enthusiasm, is sure to become a favourite with pianists able to do justice to its great difficulties, for, while providing an orchestral part of true symphonic importance, the work is a genuine virtuoso concerto. The music is remarkably fresh in invention, and yet it is a generation since the composer wrote his first concerto in B flat minor.’ Moriz Rosenthal, perhaps Liszt’s greatest pupil and a great admirer of Scharwenka, wrote of the new work: ‘It has charmed and moved me to no little degree. In your youth you created that master-work, your B flat minor Concerto, and now in your mature years you present to the world a work full of youthful fire and ardour which rivets the attention with its verve and impetuosity.’

Present at the premiere was the Princess Sophie of Wied and her husband Prince William, later to become King of Albania. After the concert Princess Sophie respectfully intimated that it would be a wonderful gesture for the composer to dedicate the concerto to her relative Queen Elisabeth of Romania (better known by the pen-name under which she wrote poetry: Carmen Sylva) who was a great lover of music, and had once studied under Clara Schumann. Scharwenka naturally obliged, and soon received a royal invitation from Elisabeth to visit Bucharest.

After a gruelling thirty-eight-hour train ride from Berlin across the snow-covered terrain of Silesia and Galicia (and, to Scharwenka’s dismay, much bad food and drink) he arrived in Bucharest and was greeted at the train station by three professors from the Bucharest Conservatory and by the twenty-year-old composer of the Hora Staccato, Grigoraó Dinicu, who escorted the visitor to his hotel.

‘The next day’, writes Scharwenka, ‘a messenger from the King brought me an invitation for tea with his Majesty. At 6.30 in the evening I arrived at the palace of the esteemed woman who, having been sick for five weeks, was out of bed for the first time and who very graciously received me. She took me on a tour through the rooms of the palace where I was able to see masterpieces by Rembrandt, Ribera, and other artistic treasures. She then took me to the music salon where a charming attendant to the Queen, Madame de Bengescu, prepared the tea and hors-d’œuvre (little bread, lots of caviar) served with a crystal flagon of rum. I drank it, of course, mixed with tea. The Queen wished to hear some music right away and, after five weeks without any, it was easy to understand her anxious wish. The pianist Emil Frey, my genial young friend, had joined me and together we sat at the two pianos (a Bechstein and a Blüthner) and played the concerto which I had dedicated to the Queen. She listened to our performance and watched with radiant eyes, and afterwards reciprocated by reading to us some of her poems which she did with impressive feeling and a touching expression that left us enraptured … the next day Frey performed the concerto at the Athenaeum with myself conducting, whereupon he had a colossal success, and the day after that the whole orchestra was called to the palace where I, in a special performance, once again had a chance to conduct my piano concerto. Another day we were invited to tea by the Crown Princess (Marie) at which the crème de la crème of the capital were gathered, and here we, once again on the Bechstein and the Blüthner, played the concerto.’

As a token of the esteem of their majesties, King Carol decorated Scharwenka with the Cross of Commander of the Crown of Romania, and Elisabeth presented him with many wonderful gifts and Romanian handicrafts for his wife and children.

Scharwenka’s first public interpretation of the piano part was under the direction of Gustav Mahler at a concert of the New York Philharmonic Society on Sunday afternoon, 27 November 1910. The concerto was a triumph and Scharwenka was recalled over half a dozen times. ‘It is writing of an exalted kind’, wrote the critic for The Musical Courier, ‘and it gives a far deeper insight into the mature Scharwenka than any of his former works afford … [the piece] closes with truly Dionysian and bewildering brilliancy … needless to say, thunders of applause greeted the finish of the performance.’ In a letter to her sister, Amy Fay wrote: ‘On Sunday afternoon I went to hear Scharwenka play his new concerto with Mahler and the Philharmonic Orchestra. I must say that I was charmed, both with the composition, and with Scharwenka’s rendering of it, which was masterly! … It was awfully difficult to play, and the Tarantella movement at the close went like lightning.’

Scharwenka performed his concerto throughout a five-month tour of the major music centres of America to great acclaim. Critics vied with each other in eulogistic accolades: ‘… held its hearers spellbound … the audience went wild …’ and so on. Back in Berlin he performed the concerto with Busoni conducting, and conducted the same piece with Moriz Rosenthal as soloist, who, according to the composer, ‘performed veritable orgies of virtuosity upon the keyboard and had tumultuous success’.

Emil Von Sauer (1862–1942) was among the many great pianists who performed Scharwenka’s piano concertos, and, in fact, played the First Concerto at his Berlin debut on 15 January 1885. In the audience, as well as the Imperial family, was the composer, who had met Sauer for the first time the year before in Leipzig. After this, the latter was a frequent guest at the Scharwenka home.

Sauer’s compositions have suffered from even greater neglect, wholly unjustifiable, than Scharwenka’s. His E minor Concerto (dedicated to ‘the memory of my great master, Nicholas Rubinstein’) was very highly esteemed by Josef Hofmann, and the work had already gone through eight printings by 1908, when Sauer first played the work in America (16 October, in Boston). Its first performance was at the festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein in Bremen on 27 May 1900 with the composer as soloist. On 23 March 1902 he played the piece in St Petersburg with Mahler conducting, and he premiered his Second Piano Concerto (in C minor) in Berlin the same year, this time with Richard Strauss as conductor.

Sauer played the E minor Concerto almost exclusively during his 1908 American tour, and in Chicago local critics wrote: ‘It was no matter for astonishment that when the pianist-composer had brought the work to its conclusion a storm of genuine enthusiasm should sweep the house from gallery to floor … Mr Sauer represents a school of piano-playing that has all but vanished. The pianists who are now moulding the taste of the public give but little thought to real pianistic beauty. They are, one and all, engaged in the questionable task of reproducing with their instruments effects that are orchestral … but in the meantime we are in danger of forgetting the joys of pure pianism. To such joys Mr Sauer has awakened us.’

In his book The Great Pianists, Harold C Schonberg wrote that ‘Sauer gained the respect of the toughest of all critics—his own colleagues. Even Josef Hofmann, not notoriously generous to many pianists, called Sauer “a truly great virtuoso”’. Martin Krause, a pupil of Liszt, said that ‘Sauer is the legitimate heir of Liszt; he has more of his charm and geniality than any other Liszt pupil’. Felix Weingartner, also a student of Liszt, wrote in 1936 that ‘Liszt’s touch was indescribably beautiful. I later heard its quality approached only by two of his pupils: Alfred Reisenauer and Emil von Sauer’. Sauer was one of only three pianists that Busoni admired without reservation, the other two being Reisenauer and Eugen d’Albert. After a 1911 Berlin recital at the Beethovensaal a critic reported that ‘I have been present at many such scenes after piano recitals, but have not witnessed such an exhibition of undiluted and extravagant musically-stimulated emotion as on that night. It seems that the people were not satisfied with merely applauding and yelling, but they supplemented all this with hurrahing for Sauer. Sauer himself gave an exhibition of remarkable pianism and played the instrument with an abandon of unexampled freedom … as a pianist, as a keyboard artist, as a manipulator of finger-work in every direction possible on the piano, his playing ranks unequalled … what was surprising to me that night was the abnormal enthusiasm of the audience here in Berlin, where there is so much piano-playing by so many of the great pianists. I thought that at least here the audience would be subdued and calm and considerate and reflective; but on that Sauer night all control seems to have been lost.’

Mark Hambourg, one of Leschetizky’s greatest pupils, stated in 1954, ‘I do not suppose that any pianist today could play … with greater elegance than Emil Sauer’. Hambourg classed Rosenthal, Sauer ‘the suave’, and Busoni ‘the demoniacal’ as the three outstanding representatives of the post-Lisztian era. Sauer’s playing elicited a memorably poetic admission from the Liszt pupil Constantin von Sternberg: ‘I want to cuddle up in my chair and let his music pour over me like a shower of fragrant May blossoms.’ Here was obviously a man who was among the most highly regarded and beloved musicians of his epoch, and yet, in 1939, Dinu Lipatti could write from Paris: ‘How does it happen that despite so glorious a past, Emil Sauer is today compelled to play in the small Salle Erard? … The present generation does not know him, and his own generation no longer exists.’

Who was this amazing personality, the object of so much veneration and praise? Emil George Konrad Sauer (the ‘von’ was bestowed upon him by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1917 for his services to music) was born in Hamburg on 8 October 1862. His first teacher was his mother, but he had little enthusiasm for his studies until, in the winter of 1877, he attended a concert in Hamburg by the great Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein. The boy was overwhelmed, indeed he was shaken to his very depths, comparing himself to one who had been blind and suddenly received sight. After the concert he rushed home and tried to recreate on his own piano the miracle he had just heard.

That evening Sauer’s mother wrote to Rubinstein with a pleading request for him to hear her son play. Rubinstein agreed and was visibly moved. He recommended Mrs Sauer to send the boy, after he had completed his studies in Hamburg, to the Moscow Conservatory where his brother Nicholas was director. Sauer’s father, who wished to see his only son pursue a more financially stable vocation, soon realized that all protest was useless and Emil was off to Moscow in the autumn of 1879, where he proceeded to work with Nicholas Rubinstein uninterruptedly for the next two years. Anton Rubinstein had seen to it that Sauer entered the Conservatory as a free scholar, so auspicious were his accomplishments.

Sauer worked relentlessly (he would later refer to these trying years in almost penological terms) until, in two years, withstanding all adversities, including Nicholas’s demon temper, he reached the head of the class along with Alexander Siloti.

After his master’s death Sauer sought his fortunes in England. He arrived there in 1882, ‘but no one would listen to me’. Eventually the twenty-year-old boy who dazzled Nicholas Rubinstein by disposing of Liszt’s Twelfth Rhapsody and the Norma Fantasy with such faultless bravura, was reduced to taking students at cheap rates and playing in private homes. Thus might Sauer have dissipated his life had not, at the moment of his greatest destitution, he met the friend to whom ‘I owe it that I have been enabled to attain my present position’. This was the artist Hercules Brabazon.

Brabazon (1821–1906), only dimly remembered today—although his paintings and sketches hang in the Tate Gallery, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum in New York—was an ardent music lover and competent amateur pianist. He first heard Sauer at an uneventful London dinner party, contending with an old and worn-out Broadwood. Despite the miserable circumstances of this first encounter, Brabazon immediately detected greatness in the young artist and resolved to help in any way he could. It was Brabazon’s great ambition to meet Liszt, and, through a letter of introduction which the Princess Carolin Wittgenstein had given to Sauer, a meeting was arranged at the Hotel de Prusse in Leipzig. Sauer has left a tangy account of this first meeting with Liszt:

I was very conscious of the solemnity of the moment, for my heart was pounding mightily as we crossed the threshold; but this initial anxiety quickly changed to confidence … as he came towards me with both hands outstretched, just like a father, his sharply marked profile and his head and features sparkling with character and intelligence. I felt the gigantic power of this man even before he opened his mouth. He was wearing a black cassock-like overcoat, trousers of the same material, an unstarched, badly ironed stand-up collar, and leather morning shoes, with which he glided over the floor towards us. His voice was both sweet and melodious, and he spoke with short, disjointed sentences, mingled with an habitual ‘hm’, a kind of clearing of the throat as though to confirm what had been said. With the gesture of a man of the world he invited us to sit down. To begin with, the conversation turned on our impressions of Spain, our experiences in Rome, and the Princess’s state of health. Then he said: ‘My expectations are truly pitched very high—hm—the Princess writes to tell me that she is quite delighted with your playing—hm—(here he addressed my patron in French) and also at the selflessness with which you, my dear Sir, have interested yourself in this talent. This is noble and high-minded—hm: disinterested behaviour is today becoming even rarer.’ Brabazon beamed! … Liszt then invited us to accompany him that afternoon to the general rehearsal of his Christus, which was to be performed the next day. ‘Tomorrow, too, we must improvise a brief session … for I am really curious to hear you.’ A consecrational kiss on the brow accompanied me, and we went happily down the stairs.

At the little private matinée which took place at Blüthner’s the next day I played some pieces by Chopin and Grieg, Rubinstein’s Staccato Étude, and Liszt’s Twelfth Rhapsody. Although because of continual travelling around I was not in practice, and my performances revealed more technical defects than I would have wished on such an important occasion, the Master was tolerant enough to show warm appreciation, especially in his Rhapsody. From time to time he called out such encouraging words as ‘bravo’, ‘bravissimo’, ‘pretty’ … ‘hm’, ‘very pretty’ … ‘hm!’ When I had come to an end he confirmed his sheer pleasure with a kiss on the forehead, and also seemed delighted to grant my request to enrol me among his pupils for the summer.

Sauer’s views on Liszt underwent a considerable change over the years. As a young man he was rather dismissive of Liszt’s music, and made some slightly tart comments about the playing of this ‘septuagenarian [who] revealed not a pianistic talent but a dramatic talent of the highest order’. However, in later years he came to realize the full extent of Liszt’s influence, both on himself and on music in general. His seems to have been a typical response of many of the more talented of Liszt’s pupils. It was perhaps understandable, even necessary, that they should seek to resist what must have been the overwhelming influence of Liszt—or else be swept away. Regarding Liszt the man, however, Sauer never entertained the slightest doubt: ‘… a kind-hearted, humane and charitable emissary who scattered his treasures abundantly and undiscriminatingly over all.’

From the date of Sauer’s aforementioned Berlin debut, playing Scharwenka’s concerto, his success was assured, and soon there was scarcely a European city of importance where Sauer was not repeatedly engaged. His first American tour in 1899 was a huge success, although he took an instant dislike to the crude publicity techniques which seemed to dog his every step. The local promoter in New York, a certain Mr Vaunter, comes in for particularly disdainful comments from Sauer in his autobiography: he found his methods ‘infinitely tasteless’. Vaunter had even invented a ‘Sauer cocktail’ which was advertised on large-lettered placards in the local bars—‘It’s pianistic and good for technique’. In the newspapers the comments were more serious, though no less sensational. After his debut concert The Musical Courier stated: ‘Last evening the Metropolitan Opera House witnessed one of the most sensational scenes in its history … It was Emil Sauer who won an enthusiasm that has not been witnessed since the days of Rubinstein … the scene at the close would beggar a dictionary of its adjectives.’

Sauer led an enormously rich and lengthy musical life. In addition to a busy teaching career interspersed between concert tours, he edited the piano works of Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann for C F Peters, editions which are still widely used. His original piano compositions (very popular in their day) were produced on piano rolls by over twenty-five different artists, and he himself made numerous piano rolls and over forty recordings for various companies. His great pianistic and musical powers remained intact until the end, and a broadcast recording of Schumann’s Concerto made in October 1940 with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw shows the seventy-eight-year-old Sauer at his best.

Of all his illustrious colleagues, the one to whom he felt the greatest devotion was his fellow Liszt-student, the conductor Felix Weingartner. They first met in Weimar in 1884, and developed a close personal and musical attachment which lasted over fifty years. At the end of their lives they recorded both Liszt concertos for Columbia. On the occasion of Sauer’s seventieth birthday Weingartner, then living in Basel, sent his friend a letter of touching poignancy:

My dearest friend,
Today you complete your seventieth year. I know it, yet I hardly could believe it if this unrelenting calendar did not remind me that I, too, will confront this situation soon. It seems not so long ago that we were with Liszt in Weimar. He himself was then seventy, just as we two are today … If I call your picture to mind … then I ask myself: ‘Have we really become different since the days when we started our career in Weimar?’ And the glad answer is ‘No!’ You did not embrace any style; you did not ask if you pleased this or the other direction; you kept the flame pure which the Eternal gave you and through this you have become a real god of the temple … a real priest. Because of this you are young, even though your silvery hair reminds me of our master, who was then seventy, too.

Because I feel in so many things with you and like you, I am sending to you, my dear Emil, today, before the whole world, my best wishes which I cannot express better than by saying to you: ‘Hold out in this entangled world! I myself will do what I can, too. We must keep high the banner which has been handed to us … be it for pleasure or be it for obstinacy … until the great call comes which says that we have done our duty.’

Now bravely towards the eightieth, my dear friend, but first of all: Auf Wiedersehen in Basel!

In faithfulness and admiration,
Felix Weingartner.

The ‘great call’ came for Emil von Sauer in Vienna on 28 April 1942, at the age of seventy-nine. Weingartner was to follow nine days later.

Steven Heliotes © 1995


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'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 6 – Dohnányi' (CDA66684)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 6 – Dohnányi
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 7 – Alkan & Henselt' (CDA66717)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 7 – Alkan & Henselt
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 8 – Medtner 1 & Quintet' (CDA66744)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 8 – Medtner 1 & Quintet
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 9 – Albert' (CDA66747)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 9 – Albert
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 10 – Weber' (CDA66729)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 10 – Weber
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 12 – Parry & Stanford' (CDA66820)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 12 – Parry & Stanford
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 13 – Glazunov & Goedicke' (CDA66877)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 13 – Glazunov & Goedicke
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 14 – Litolff 2 & 4' (CDA66889)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 14 – Litolff 2 & 4
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 15 – Hahn & Massenet' (CDA66897)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 15 – Hahn & Massenet
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 16 – Huss & Schelling' (CDA66949)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 16 – Huss & Schelling
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 17 – Mendelssohn' (CDA66969)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 17 – Mendelssohn
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 18 – Korngold & Marx' (CDA66990)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 18 – Korngold & Marx
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 19 – Mackenzie & Tovey' (CDA67023)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 19 – Mackenzie & Tovey
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 20 – Brüll' (CDA67069)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 20 – Brüll
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 21 – Dreyschock & Kullak' (CDA67086)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 21 – Dreyschock & Kullak
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 22 – Busoni' (CDA67143)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 22 – Busoni
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 23 – Holbrooke & Wood' (CDA67127)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 23 – Holbrooke & Wood
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 24 – Vianna da Motta' (CDA67163)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 24 – Vianna da Motta
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67163  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 25 – MacDowell' (CDA67165)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 25 – MacDowell
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 26 – Litolff' (CDA67210)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 26 – Litolff
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50ALAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50 CDA67210  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 27 – Saint-Saëns' (CDA67331/2)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 27 – Saint-Saëns
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 28 – Stojowski' (CDA67314)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 28 – Stojowski
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 29 – Moscheles' (CDA67276)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 29 – Moscheles
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 30 – Lyapunov' (CDA67326)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 30 – Lyapunov
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £7.45ALAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £7.45 CDA67326  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 31 – Fuchs & Kiel' (CDA67354)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 31 – Fuchs & Kiel
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 32 – Moscheles' (CDA67385)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 32 – Moscheles
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 33 – Scharwenka' (CDA67365)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 33 – Scharwenka
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 34 – Pierné' (CDA67348)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 34 – Pierné
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 35 – Herz' (CDA67465)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 35 – Herz
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 36 – Moscheles' (CDA67430)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 36 – Moscheles
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 37 – Nápravník & Blumenfeld' (CDA67511)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 37 – Nápravník & Blumenfeld
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £7.45ALAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £7.45 CDA67511  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 38 – Rubinstein & Scharwenka' (CDA67508)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 38 – Rubinstein & Scharwenka
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 48 kHz £7.85ALAC 24-bit 48 kHz £7.85 CDA67508  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 39 – Delius & Ireland' (CDA67296)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 39 – Delius & Ireland
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 40 – Herz' (CDA67537)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 40 – Herz
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 41 – Kalkbrenner' (CDA67535)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 41 – Kalkbrenner
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 42 – Alnæs & Sinding' (CDA67555)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 42 – Alnæs & Sinding
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 43 – Bennett & Bache' (CDA67595)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 43 – Bennett & Bache
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 44 – Melcer-Szczawinski' (CDA67630)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 44 – Melcer-Szczawinski
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 45 – Hiller' (CDA67655)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 45 – Hiller
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 46 – Bowen' (CDA67659)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 46 – Bowen
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 47 – Draeseke & Jadassohn' (CDA67636)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 47 – Draeseke & Jadassohn
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 48 – Benedict & Macfarren' (CDA67720)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 48 – Benedict & Macfarren
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 49 – Stenhammar' (CDA67750)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 49 – Stenhammar
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 50 – Tchaikovsky' (CDA67711/2)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 50 – Tchaikovsky
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 51 – Taubert & Rosenhain' (CDA67765)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 51 – Taubert & Rosenhain
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 52 – Goetz & Wieniawski' (CDA67791)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 52 – Goetz & Wieniawski
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 53 – Reger & Strauss' (CDA67635)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 53 – Reger & Strauss
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 54 – Somervell & Cowen' (CDA67837)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 54 – Somervell & Cowen
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 55 – Widor' (CDA67817)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 55 – Widor
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner' (CDA67843)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 56 – Kalkbrenner
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund' (CDA67828)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 57 – Wiklund
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg' (CDA67915)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis & Thalberg
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński' (CDA67958)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 59 – Zarzycki & Żeleński
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50 CDA67958  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois' (CDA67931)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 60 – Dubois
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67931  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61' (CDA67950)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 61
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50 CDA67950  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod' (CDA67975)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 62 – Gounod
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50 CDA67975  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard' (CDA68043)
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 63 – Godard
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA68043  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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