Masters of the Piano Roll series
Harold Bauer — The Great Pianists - Volume 13
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Ruins of Athens — Turkish March Op.113 (1812) [1:54]
Gavotte in F [2:52]
Harold BAUER (1873-1951)
Motley and Flourish [2:45]
Barberini's Minuet [3:10]
Ignace PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Danses polonaises—Krakowiak Op.9 [4:36]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Paganini Etude No.2 in E flat major S140 Op.11 (1838) [4:55]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Polonaise in E flat major [4:30]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor BWV903 (c.1720 rev. c.1730) [12:09]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise in C sharp minor Op.26 No.1 [6:00]
Etude in C sharp minor Op.25 No.7 [5:34]
Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58 (1844) [23:49]
Harold Bauer (piano) reproduced via piano rolls
rec. onto rolls 1916-1929
DAL SEGNO DSPRCD 053 [73:06]

Harold Bauer, ex-fiddle player, piano convert, and the most prestigious English pianist to emigrate to America, made a series of 78rpm recordings sufficient to fill 3 CDs – a reasonable return, though hardly an outstanding number of discs, given his distinction. He also made numerous piano rolls and he cannily recorded onto roll some of the things he recorded onto disc, not least his own baroque pieces. A number of his rolls have been released over the years, most recently in Nimbus’s Grand Piano series, and Dal Segno has been busy too. These reproducing recordings were taped in 1992 and constitute part of the company’s continuing Great Pianists series; this, in fact, is volume 13.

As ever it’s instructive to line up a disc recording against a roll reproduction and note the differences. The roll of Beethoven’s Gavotte in F was made around 1921. Bauer went into the Victor studios to set down an electric disc of it in 1926. Whereas the roll is tonally undifferentiated and metrical, the disc is colouristic and vital. A listen to the trills will demonstrate what we are lacking in a roll: they’re dead, whereas in the disc they’re vital and singing. Similarly whilst I wager you’ll enjoy Bauer’s baroque pieces in this roll – the Motley and Flourish, and Barberini’s Minuet, you will enjoy them far more if you chance to listen to the June 1924 acoustic disc recordings he left behind; you’ll find the magic here that the rolls lack.

The only Bach recording Bauer made was of his own – not Myra Hess’s – arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and this does mean that the roll of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, made around 1929, is of value and importance; so too Liszt’s Paganini Etude. Bauer wasn’t much known as a Liszt player and flashy repertoire didn’t feature much in his programmes. In fact apart from Un sospiro and Waldesrauschen he left no Liszt recordings. There isn’t much Chopin either; he was more a Schumann man it would seem, though it does seem a low haul for a poetic musician such as Bauer. He did record the A flat major Impromptu, the Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor and the Berceuse in D flat but nothing else. Fortunately the rolls augment this, however fallibly, with a Polonaise, an Etude and the complete B minor Sonata. This is the single most important aspect of this disc, given that he didn’t have many opportunities to record big works, and had none to record concertos. His large-scale studio undertakings were the Moonlight sonata for Victor in 1927, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke for HMV in 1935, and his famous Brahms’s Third Sonata set for Schirmer in 1939. With notable reservations one can cite this Chopin roll too.

This disc augments Bauer’s discography therefore, albeit tentatively. His disc recordings have been issued in one three CD set on APR7302 and they are highly recommended by me – certainly for the Brahms, the Schumann and Grieg, and the numerous smaller pieces, all played with poetry and lovely tone.

Jonathan Woolf

This disc augments Bauer’s discography therefore, albeit tentatively.