Before this CD was produced in 1994 Scharwenka and Sauer were two names unheard of by most Classical music fans. Despite the awards this CD gained, and recordings of other works by them since they remain largely unknown. On the strength of these two works they deserve a wider hearing, and these two concertos deserve to be played in our major concert halls.
Both composers were hailed as composer pianists in their lifetimes. Scharwenka's Concerto No 4 from 1910 is the more innovative. At 40 minutes long with an 18 minute first movement it is a big beast.The virtuosity displayed ranks with the best of Rachmaninov, whilst in style the music is more adventurous, rather as with early Prokofiev there is the sound of late romantic music being pulled in new directions: sometimes verging on the early modern, sometimes with the innovative rhythms sounding almost like symphonic jazz 20 years before its time.
At half an hour long Sauer's Concerto No 1 of 1902 is a substantial piece as well. It is less showy, but what it lacks for in musical fireworks it makes up for in its beautiful sense of melody and harmony. The way in which piano and orchestra augment each other is a joy to listen to.
As to the performances, they are of a very high calibre. Honours must go to pianist Stephen Hough. Such is the ease with which he plays even the most difficult passages that the danger is to let them roll over you and think `well, that's very nice' without appreciating the level of skill being demonstrated. The sound complements the music well.
The notes are excellent, giving good information on the two composers.
All in all a five star discovery.