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NY Concert Review of Nocturnes Vol. 1

December 2008 - By Harris Goldsmith, NY Concert Review

 
CD Review
Chopin Nocturnes, Volume 1
Edward Auer, piano
Culture/Demain Recordings (Max Wilcox, prod.)

Recorded March, June 2007 (Total Time: 72’21’’)


This generously filled compact disc, designated as “Vol. 1”, promises this happy reviewer and longtime admirer of Edward Auer’s distinguished pianism and musicianship that a sequel is on the way. Auer is one of America’s most distinguished musicians and virtuosos, and those readers who--for some reason may be unfamiliar with his artistry-- are hereby reminded that Mr. Auer was born in Los Angeles, studied with Schnabel’s assistant, Aube Tszerko, and Mme. Rosina Lhevinne at Juilliard. (Interestingly, his good friend and colleague Mischa Dichter shared the same pedagogical background). Auer went on as a Fulbright Scholar to continue his study with Julius Katchen, was the first American to win a prize at the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and has subsequently concertized many times in Poland. I cherish the memory of his magnificent rendition of the Schumann Fantasy (at an early Young Concert Artists recital in the mid 1960’s) and also his fine EMI LP disc of the Chopin Preludes, Op. 28. Although Auer has been quietly teaching as a professor at Indiana University, he has not been so much in the limelight of late. Ergo these new performances of Chopin’s Nocturnes constitute a comeback of sorts---and what a comeback it is!

Indeed, this wonderfully poetic and seemingly spontaneously inspirational recreations not only remind us that Auer’s eloquence and technical powers have deepened and attained additional communicative and interpretative mastery, but this new anthology undoubtedly takes an honored place alongside the greatest extant editions of these copiously recorded masterpieces, e.g. Rubinstein’s c. 1938 versions, Ivan Moravec’s, and Tamas Vasary’s--to name my few favorites.

Auer has a knack of surpassing the listener’s expectations by way of all sorts of felicitous turns of phrase and tempo, but thankfully, the details of his irrepressible individuality are never permitted to break the long line or in any way violate the di rigeur forward motion, direct ongoing vortex and inevitability of the diversified tone poems. Delicious niceties of tone and phrase abound, but--quite miraculously--these are never fussy or mannered Chopin performances. We know for a fact that Chopin often wrote embellished versions of his pieces for his various pupils (Jane Stirling, to cite one example), and as a result, several variant versions are in existence. Auer scrupulously adds a few roulades here and there, but he does so sparingly, and these are--for the most part—strong and simple recreations in the best sense.

A word about the recorded sound: the performances were played in a small studio but nowhere do they seem cramped. I am highly pleased by their wonderful intimacy and immediacy. Producer Max Wilcox has achieved a striking verisimilitude of experiencing music making in an ideal and flattering living room. Bravissimo for all concerned; I eagerly anticipate the imminent arrival of Volume 2!
 
       
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