Music and Vision homepage


Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Who to listen for - the UK round-up. December 10th - 31st 1999




Paris 1938-39



It is a long time since I have been so moved as I was by the appearance of the venerable and illustrious Emil Sauer on the platform. The same dignified figure, the same man, the same artist. Emil Sauer stands as a symbol of the last century to our generation; his reappearance is a reminder of that rare species, the 'Eagle-Pianist,' if I may use such a banal comparison. During his recital last night I experienced so many contradictory emotions that it is difficult to define them. In the first instance, a profound joy when I realized that this artist had not altered (and I believe he never will). Nothing in his playing or attitude betrays his [nearly] eighty years loaded with success and achievement. At the same time I felt a great sadness. How is it possible that Emil Sauer must play in the small Salle Erard, despite his glorious past, when a Brailowsky or Uninsky can pack the Salle Pleyel? It must be due to public opinion, which remains eternally superficial, dependent on trends made fashionable by snobbery and publicity. In the case of Sauer, there may be another explanation - it is as strange as it is sad to reflect that the present generation has never heard of him, while his own generation has faded away. No matter how paradoxical it may seem this is the truth. Emil Sauer, the international virtuoso and pupil of Franz Liszt, is being forced, at the end of a brilliant career, to attempt to make a 'name' for himself. Such, at least, is the situation in France!

* * *

Nearly five years have passed since I had the opportunity to admire [Horowitz], this magician of the keyboard. My impatience to hear him again was shared by the public, who actually assaulted the doors of the great Salle Pleyel ... I expected to hear the 'demonic' virtuoso who amazed the world at his debut. Instead I found him transformed - but not for the better. He still remains the same extraordinary pianist, but I had the impression - and I hope I am not the only one - that Horowitz is trying a tout prix to 'purify' his interpretations, to strip them of anything approaching artificiality. Yet, he accomplished this in such a way as to produce the contrary effect: his playing became mechanical and deadly artificial! ... Nothing is so sad as stylized and intellectualized music where only intuition and great sensitivity are needed. I recall a truism expressed by Busoni, although these may not be the exact words: The fault with Beethoven was that he was too profound. True philosophy does not consist in walking through the streets of Venice dressed in black during Carnival time, but in taking part in it. ... how apt in Horowitz's case when one word would suffice to liberate a great pianist from his own shadow ... Horowitz will be the most extraordinary pianist of all times the day he is content to accept himself as he is.

- Dinu Lipatti, 'Cronica artistica. Viata Muzicala la Paris,' Libertatea, Bucharest, October 1939

abridged from Dragos Tanasescu and Grigore Bargauanu, Lipatti (Bucharest 1971)
edited and translated by Carola Grindea and Anne Goossens (Kahn & Averill, London 1988, rev ed 1996)



With the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra under Weingartner, Emil von Sauer (1862-1942) recorded the Liszt concertos in December 1938. Horowitz's two 'come-back' recitals in Paris took place in February and March 1939: 'The Christmas-tree glitter and fascinating shimmer are still evident though not as consistently as before,' wrote Herbert E Peyser in the New York Times (March 5th 1939). AO

 << Pianos and Pianists homepage          Mendelssohn the pianist >>