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Harold Bauer (piano)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Fantasiestücke Op. 12
Novellette Op. 21/2
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Un Sospiro S144 No. 3
Waldesrauschen S145 No. 1
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Norwegian Bridal Procession Op. 19/2
Albumblatt Op. 28/3
Albumblatt Op. 28/1
Papillon Op. 43/1
To Spring Op. 43/6
Notturno Op. 54/4
Valse-Impromptu Op. 47/1
Humoresque Op. 6/3
Berceuse Op. 38/1
Harold Bauer (piano)
Recorded 1935-42
BIDDULPH LHW 011 [74.41]


The magnificent British pianist Harold Bauer (b.1873) faced a dilemma few encounter. He made his professional debut as a violinist and it was only an encounter with Paderewski – who quipped that Bauer had the hair of a pianist – that led to a decisive change of direction. He studied with the older man in Paris, where he immersed himself in musical life, received the dedication of Ravel’s Ondine and gave the Parisian premiere of Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite. His two-piano concerts with Osip Gabrilowitsch became famous, as were his chamber ensembles with the leading instrumentalists of the day. Later settling in America he continued to impress, and to record, and was the leading light behind the Beethoven Association in New York though his career slowed down during the Second World War. He died in 1951.

This is the third and last of Biddulph’s tribute series to Bauer and continues the very high standards already set. The copies are good ones and the transfers by Ward Marston are warm and sympathetic, qualities that the pianist himself demonstrates throughout this recital. Schumann’s Fantasiestücke gets a tremendously affectionate and lyrical reading. There’s poetry and limpid beauty in Des Abends and poetry even in the midst of the bravura of Aufschwung. Bauer characterises In der Nacht with simplicity and colour; it’s not under too much pedal and it’s not overplayed (as a bonus there’s an unpublished take of In der Nacht as well). Bauer doesn’t go in for virtuoso dramatics in Traumeswirren where he couldn’t have competed with the Horowitzes of this world but it is delightfully scaled. In all this is a marvellously evocative 1935 set.

His Liszt stresses the lyricism and withdrawn intimacies rather than the overt drama but his Grieg shows enviable qualities every bit as convincing as his Schumann. The Norwegian Bridal Procession is genuinely witty and rhythmically acute whereas the Albumblatt is surprisingly serious and inward. Delicious inflections inform Papillon and there is a profusion of colour here – Bauer’s colouristic palette in this kind of music really was sophisticated but utterly natural sounding – whilst he finds freshness and verdant life in To Spring. If you want fine-spun tracery try his subtly shaded and beautifully voiced Notturno. And to sample his more frolicsome nature try the rusticities of the Op. 6 No. 3 Humoresque.

In every way – from selection, transfer and notes – this is a distinguished and exciting release and illuminates Bauer’s musicianship to our lasting advantage.

Jonathan Woolf



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