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Chopin - Sonata in B Minor

This album was recorded in 2006 when Walter Hautzig was 85. Certainly there was no diminution in Mr. Hautzig's performance abilities. If anything he improved with age. Perhaps it was the 7 decades of experience playing one of his favorite composers.

12 Tracks – Total Time: 75:35

Rather than writing brief passages about the sublime music of Frederick Chopin, I decided to write about my friend and colleague in music—Walter Hautzig—who celebrates his 85th birthday this year. The small amount of space found here allows far fewer words than would be needed to do the music justice. Simply listening to Walter’s wonderful playing is all that is required to forge an intimate connection with Chopin’s music.   

Walter Hautzig was born in 1921 in Vienna, Austria, where he began his musical studies. After several years of private lessons he began to study at the State Academy of Music. The prestige of the academy was such that Emil Sauer, one of the few surviving students of Liszt, was a member of its faculty. In addition, Vienna itself could lay just claim to being the “musical capital of the world”. Fortunately his home life and musical studies provided a shelter from the storm clouds gathering over Europe. On March 12, 1938 they burst forth as Hitler’s army invaded Austria.  Like most of Vienna’s Jews, he began to bear the brunt of the Anschluss—the annexation of Austria to Nazi-controlled Germany.

The choice became clear—stay in Austria and probably perish or leave. Yet what a choice to have to make! It is indeed fortunate for us that Walter made the difficult decision to leave his family behind. After a successful audition with Emil Hauser, the famous violinist and founder of the Budapest Quartet, Walter was able to emigrate with Mr. Hauser’s help to Jerusalem, which at that time was part of Palestine. Once there he continued his studies at the Jerusalem Conservatory where Mr. Hauser was the director and which was the forerunner of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.

Although many of his family perished in the Holocaust, immediate family members, including his mother and father, survived. After many months the family was reunited in New York City. Soon after arriving in America he met and played for famed pianist Artur Schnabel. And not long after he auditioned and was accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where his principal teacher was Mieczyslaw Munz, a student of Busoni. In 1943, when he was 21, the New York music critics voted him outstanding performer of the year for those ages 30 and under for his debut at Town Hall. In 1960 Walter joined the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where he taught for the next 27 years while still continuing to concertize. After leaving Peabody in 1987 he focused on teaching and he continued to tour. In 1979 he was the first American concert artist to perform in China after the normalization of relations with the United States. Walter can truly say that he has delighted audiences in cities and towns from A to Z all over the world. And he has known so many of the world’s other great musicians that he is a treasure trove of wonderful anecdotes about their very interesting lives, which he does not hesitate to relate during his recitals.

In 1996 I met Walter through our mutual good friend and pianist, Eugene Barban. Shortly thereafter Americus Records was formed and our first CD containing Beethoven’s complete works for piano and cello with Walter at the piano was released. On September 29, 2001, Americus was fortunate to be able to participate in Walter’s 80th birthday celebration held in Steinway Hall in New York City. People came from all over the world to join in the festivities. On November 20, 2006, he is scheduled to play Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto in Jerusalem in celebration of his 85th birthday and as a prelude to the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s 60th anniversary in 2007.

I have had the very good fortune to have had Walter, his lovely and talented wife Esther, their daughter Deborah and son David as the best of friends these last ten years. During this time they have become like family. It is my fondest hope that we will continue to produce wonderful recordings together for many years to come.

John DesMarteau – President, Americus Records, Inc. 

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Recorded February 2006 in Kristiansand, Norway at Sigurd Lie Hall of Agder University College. John R. Bøe is the recording engineer and editor. Charlie Pilzer of Airshow mastered the album. The cover is a pencil drawing of Chopin done by Eliza Radziwill in 1826, the original of which is found in the Polish National Museum in Warsaw. John DesMarteau did the graphic design.

Walter Hautzig – Pianist – September 28, 1921 - January 30, 2017

Walter Hautzig began his musical studies in Vienna, where he was born in 1921. He was able to escape the Nazi take over of Austria in 1938 through the efforts of violinist Emile Hauser, and so continued his studies at the Jerusalem Conservatory in what was then Palestine. He has made his home in New York City since the 1940’s when he graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

While at the Curtis Institute, Mr. Hautzig studied with Mieczyslaw Munz, a student of Busoni. He also studied privately with acclaimed pianist Artur Schnabel.

He has played countless recitals in more than fifty countries worldwide and has appeared with leading orchestras in cities from A to Z including: Auckland, Baltimore, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Jerusalem, Mexico City, Melbourne, New York, St. Louis, Zurich, etc. He was the first American concert artist to perform in China with the normalization of relations in 1979.

At the time of his death, Mr. Haitzig was considered one of the last great romantic pianists. In addition, Mr. Hautzig currently holds the record as the longest time as a Steinway artist.

Several years ago, Mr. Hautzig published his autobiography entitled "Playing Around…The World: A Pianist Remembers". It is available from Amazon.