Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Emil Von Sauer. 1940 live recordings - Amsterdam and Vienna
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54
Traumeswirren Op. 12 No. 7
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptu in G flat
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Bolero Op. 19
Nocturne in E flat Op. 9 No. 2
Etude in C minor Op. 25 No. 12
Giovanni SGAMBATI (1841-1914)

Minuetto vecchio Op. 18 No. 3
Emil von SAUER (1862-1942)

Piano Sonata No. 1
Emil von Sauer (piano)
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Willem Mengelberg (Schumann Concerto)
Recorded live in 1940
ARBITER 114 [64.47]

It has been a bumper time recently for Emil von Sauer. Marston brought out his complete commercial discs on three CDs and Arbiter has released this truly remarkable disc of his 1940 live performances. Sauer (1862-1942) was a pupil of Nicholas Rubinstein – brother of Anton – and Sauer never ceased singing his praises as a pedagogue par excellence. Sauer subsequently joined the Liszt circle, taking part in the 1884 classes and began his career the following year with a Berlin debut. That career lasted for not far short of sixty years and listening to these frankly astounding performances one can hear very little diminution in digital flexibility, much less accuracy, his technique remaining in well nigh unimpaired condition.

The Austrian (RAVAG) radio recital of 1940 was recorded and stored before being carried away as war booty by the Russians in 1945. Most of the pieces are new to Sauer’s discography. As for the Schumann Concerto, this was the last work Sauer performed, two years later with Knappertsbusch conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Here he has the riveting support of Mengelberg. Taking this first and even knowing of Sauer’s reputation for technical fluency and expressive nuance – also a sense of space and depth in his performances of the Liszt concertos, which are quite leisurely – I was still astonished by the performance of the 78 year old as he and Mengelberg launch one of the most magical and winning performances of the Schumann I’ve ever heard. Note writer Allan Evans characterises it as "relaxed and dramatic" and that is a well-chosen and apposite phrase, emphasising that the former need not be dissociated from the latter. Sauer’s judicious weight and chordal timing in the Allegro affettuoso is notable, Mengelberg’s astounding orchestral accelerando jet propelled, exuding remarkable animation and rhythm. Sauer is glorious in his colour as are the wind principals at c3.20 as the pianist slows at the climax. He is tremendously graceful in the intermezzo – Mengelberg bringing out the affectionate string and oboe’s moulded phrases and in the finale there is a buoyancy, an airborne lightness and freedom that is frequently intoxicating. The occasional idiosyncrasies may not be to all tastes but I found them utterly delicious and impossible to resist.

The Austrian recital approximates pretty accurately to a Sauer concert recital. Thus his Schubert Impromptu is played in the Liszt edition in G major (not G flat) and is a master class in voicings, vibrant and liquid – with the added chordal and harmonic transpositions prominent. His Chopin Bolero is winning and delightful, the Nocturne limpidity itself with delightful little hesitations. In the C minor Etude there is marvellous insight and control, full of lucidity and sonorous clarity, a myriad of perceptible voicings. The Schumann Traumeswirren is filigree, with quick and unimpeded finger work from Sauer as he conveys the humour and winsome frivolity with maximum wit. He was a champion of Sgambati whose Piano Concerto he’d performed in Rome under the composer’s direction. The Minuetto vecchio is full of charm and generous lyricism, rolled chords imparting an antique air and wit, Sauer showing just how morceaux such as this can be given breathtakingly characterised life without either specious ostentation or undue glamour. His own Sonata is a little nine-minute compound of Schumann and Sgambati. The Spieluhr second movement is a capricious one with filigree treble games and "musical box" sonorities and the finale a glittering showpiece full of finger clarity and finesse – and sheer charm.

As you can tell I was entirely captivated by this disc. The sound is quite unproblematic and the descriptive and biographical notes splendid. But then the whole thing is splendid and those interested in piano performance practice would be ill advised to pass this by. Sauer was self-evidently one of the giants, a true poet, and these live performances attest to the lyricism and beauty that mark out one of the elite.

Jonathan Woolf

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