Richard B. Kamins
July 24, 2012

A Week of Picks

I don't often post about classical music and when I do, it's often about a contemporary composer, soloist or ensemble.  But, in the wake of the horrific shootings in Colorado and violence elsewhere in the world, I often find older classical works to be extremely soothing.

Edward Auer, born in New York City on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, moved to Los Angeles. California, as a very young boy.  He began studying at the age of 6 and was already playing Mozart Piano Quartets and the Schumann quintet with his father (an accomplished amateur violist) by the time he was 8.  Auer played numerous chamber music festivals throughout his teen years and enrolled in the Juilliard School to continue his education.  He won a Fulbright Grant to study in Paris and, in 1964, won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and also made his Carnegie Hall debut.  Numerous prizes followed as did concerts - he's now played throughout the world.

Over the past several decades, Edward Auer has made a number of recordings for several different labels.  In 2008, Auer released the first volume in a series of recordings for the Culture/Demain Recordings label (which he owns) dedicated to the music of Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849).  The 3rd release in the series, "The Two Piano Concertos", has just been issued and it is a stunning work of art.  Instead of the pianist working with an orchestra (as is traditional for these pieces), both compositions feature arrangements for string quartet and stringed bass.  Auer's arrangement of the "Concerto in F Minor, Opus 21" is a world premiere while the arrangement of the "Concerto inE Minor, Opus 11" is based on the composer's alternate arrangement for smaller chamber ensembles.  Joining Auer in creating this lovely program is the Shanghai Quartet (violinists Weigang Li and Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras) plus bassist Peter Lloyd of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Chopin wrote these pieces when he was 19 and 20 - one can hear from the fine performances the incredible animation in the choice of dances the composer used in the music.  One hears joy in the long, flowing, piano lines in the "Allegro Vivace" of the "F Minor Concerto", the harp-like sweep of notes that lead the pianist to the rousing finish.  The strings open the 2nd movement of the "E Minor Concerto" (the "Romance: Larghetto") with the sweetest melodic lines that lead to a delicate piano section;  when they play with him, the strings create a gentle counterpoint to the stirring piano phrases.

"Chopin: The Two Piano Concertos" is music that can bring the sun on the darkest days, perhaps can help to heal the heart and mind.  The musicians play with gusto and delight as well as with delicacy and sensitivity.  For more information and to hear selections from other CDs, go to