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with a beautiful cadenza.
R-199-108/3 Bach's Six Partitas performed by Sari Biro, Jörg Demus
and John Gillespie. Cover by Steinweiss.
Biro - picture taken from the CD on which she performs Gian Carlo Menotti,
Darius Milhaud, Leo Weiner.
article by Maria Watts on Armchair World.
born pianist Sari Biro (Budapest, 24 March 1912), came to the United
States in 1940 (according to the short biography on the cover of Remington
record R-199-133), but other sources mention 1939. On May 4th 1940 she
gave her first concert on US soil, in New York City's Town Hall. Sari
Biro was heralded by many a critic, as can be read on the back of the
cover of the recording of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (R-199-75).
The day after the Townhall
concert The New York Herald-Tribune wrote:
completely unheralded, Sari Biro proved to be not only one of
the most absorbing instrumentalists heard this season, but indubitably
one of the most gifted pianists of her sex."
The New York Times:
Biro must be reckoned among the foremost women exponents of the
keyboard of the time."
New York World Telegram stated:
most striking thing about Sari Biro's piano playing was her strength,
her man-sized tone, the fury and tempest she could unleash at
will ... her fleetness of fingering and the manner in which she
could launch into unrestrained and subtle song on occasion."
Biro at thirty, at the time she had made her debut in New York.
Photo by Harry R. Fischer, ARPS,
taken from a booking ad, edited by R.A.B (From the SoundFountain
Remington Site Archive)
Biro began her musical career
at the age of four when she startled her family by sitting down at the
piano and playing from memory a simple piece her older sister had been
practicing. She was eight when she entered the Franz Liszt Royal Academy
(Liszt Ferenc Zenemüvészeti Egyetem) of Budapest where she
finished her 'course' in half the allotted time. One of her teachers
was Leo Weiner.
After completing her studies she concertized as soloist with the leading
European symphony orchestras: Budapest, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, London,
Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, The Hague, Prague, Salzburg, Zürich, Stockholm,
After her American debut Sari Biro reappeared on different occasions
in Town Hall and also in Carnegie Hall. She gave recitals in the major
American music-centers and also earned great success when performing
with the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Kansas City,
Denver, New Orleans and New Haven. She also toured Central and South
Since Sari Biro did not have a contract with a record company and was
already known by the New York audience, undoubtedly Don Gabor saw in
her an interesting artist to complement his small but steady growing
catalog. And she was Hungarian as quite a few Remington artists were.
The Remington recordings of Sari Biro:
- Mozart: Piano concerto No. 24, with
conducting the Austrian Symphony Orchestra (coupled with Overture to
"The Marriage of Figaro" performed by the Austrian Symphony Orchestra,
Robert Heger conducting). The record was released in June 1952.
- Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition. Released in June 1952.
Contemporary Piano Composers - Kabalevsky: Sonata No. 3, Bartok: Peasant
Songs and Dances (Nos. 7 to 15), Kodaly: Dances from Maroszék.
The recording was released in December 1953. The cover is by Alex Steinweiss.
Most likely recorded in the Mastertone Recording Studios Inc. in New
is a 3 - 12" record set with Partitas Nos. 1-6 of Johann Sebastian
Bach, played by pianists
Jörg Demus (Nos.
1 & 6) and Sari Biro (No. 2), and pianist/harpsichordist
Gillespie (Nos. 3, 4 and 5).
At the end
of World War II John Gillespie spent two years at the Conservatoire
Nationale de Paris, studying organ with André Marchal and Marcel
Dupré. He later returned to Paris for two years of study at the
Sorbonne. He completed his studies in the US and received a Ph.D. in
musicology in 1951.
The recording of Sari Biro was not available separately as the Partita
covered only one side. Warren DeMotte's evaluation: "The Remington album
which divides the chore among two pianists and a harpsichordist, contains
some conscientious playing, quite well recorded." The set was released
It is known that only the most necessary splicing was done and hardly
any additional takes were recorded. In many cases this resulted in a
less than an optimal performance on record, or at least what was feasible
under the given circumstances.
When comparing Sari Biro's recording of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an
Exhibition' to the performances by pianists like Julius Katchen
(Decca/London), Leonard Pennario (Capitol), Alexander Uninsky
(Philips/Epic) and Wladimir Horowitz (RCA), critic
found the Biro performance of Mussorgsky 'prosaic' which was still a
better mark than received by Katchen and Pennario. The less dynamic
approach of Sari Biro can partially be attributed to the rather dull
sound recording or the less dynamic cutting of the matrix.
Her performance of the Mozart Concerto has moments of subtle
feeling, especially in the slow movement.
But the most interesting of her four Remington disks is R-199-133.
Miss Biro evidently feels at home with the repertoire of Béla
Bartók, Zoltán Kodály and Dimitri Kabalevsky.
Sari Biro excelled in the more modern repertoire.
is a CD with live recordings from 1949 in Carnegie Hall of performances
of Gian Carlo Menotti's Piano Concerto, Leo Weiner's Concertino for
Piano and Orchestra, and Darius Milhaud's Concerto for Piano.
The conductor is Emanuel Vardi.
From 1956 on she lived in San Francisco and appeared also on radio and
television. She did much for the recognition of women pianists.
Biro passed away on 2 September, 1990 in San Francisco.
1995 the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest established 'The Sari Biro
Memorial Award', a monetary prize which is awarded to an outstanding
A. Bruil. Page first published in the Fall of 2002.
The official spelling is Mussorgsky. In early days the name was written
Moussorgsky, the French way, and sometimes Moussorgski.