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Werner Haas (Piano)

Born: March 3, 1931 - Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Died: October 11, 1976 - car accident near Nancy, France

The German pianist, Werner Haas, exhibited unusual talent as a young child, though the pianist himself was reluctant to claim he was extraordinarily gifted. Already at the age of 13 he attracted attention after winning a competition in Stettin and performing in public. This competition nevertheless turned out to be the only competition of his career as a musician. international competitions of inflationary tendency did not fit his modest and reserved nature. Still, he might have developed even sooner but for the exigencies brought on by the war in his homeland. From 1947 to 1954, he studied at the Stuttgart Academy of Music, where he took instruction on piano from Lilli Kröber-Asche, who was known for her W.A. Mozart interpretations. Shortly after leaving the Stuttgart Academy in 1954, he traveled to Saarbrücken for two years (until 1956) of study with Walter Gieseking, whose interest in the music of Debussy may well have steered Haas toward the French master's works.

It was during this time that Werner Haas he launched his career with a critically well-received recital (1955) in his native Stuttgart. In 1956 he made his debut playing Tchaikovskij´s First Piano Concerto with the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, conducted by Hans Hörner. From 1956 on, he toured Europe and has been admired by both experts and amateurs not only in Europe but beyond it´s borders. However, in his own country he experienced the fate of many other prophets - Werner Haas was taken for granted and not appreciated by the majority of Stuttgart audiences and local music institutions. In Europe´s music capitals Haas was acclaimed for his sensational piano recitals and piano concerto performances with the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester under Karl Münchinger, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Franz-Paul Decker, Zagreb Philharmonic led by Milan Horvat, Philharmonic Orchestra of the ORTF in Paris, Residentie Orkest Den Haag led by Willem van Otterloo, and Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich. He made recordings of Sergei Rachmaninov with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Elialu Inbal.

Following a 1958 Paris concert, Philips executive Igor Maslowski signed the pianist to a multi-year contract with his Dutch label. The partnership worked well for both, as evidenced by Haas' numerous discographic successes, including his Debussy complete works edition, which was awarded a Grand Prix du Disque in 1970, and his Ravel recordings, which given an Amsterdam Edison Prize also in 1970.

Though Werner Haas began recording in the late 1950’s, most of his activity in the studio dates to the 1960’s. His 1960 recording of Frédéric Chopin's Waltzes (14) garnered much critical acclaim, even in the USA where it received a rave review in the January 1961 issue of High Fidelity. On tour abroad, he generally drew favorable reviews as well, such as his November 1967 London recital at Wigmore Hall and his July 1970 Milan concert, to name but two. By the mid-1970’s, Haas' career was in full bloom, with appearances in some of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe and turning out recordings that routinely garnered critical acclaim. Like the American pianist William Kapell, however, his career ended abruptly and tragically: Haas was killed on October 11, 1976, in a accident near Nancy, France, when his automobile collided with a truck. Many of the pianist's recordings are still available via reissue, most on the Philips label.

Werner Haas was especially known for his interpretations of French repertoire, particularly the works of Debussy and Ravel. But his performances of music by F. Chopin and L.v. Beethoven were also highly praised and his repertoire was quite broad, extending to Russian composers as Sergei Prokofiev (Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 & 4), Dmitry Kabalevsky and Igor Stravinsky, and the complete works for piano and orchestra by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.. He was better known in Europe than in the Americas, where he never concertized. His many admirers assert that had his life not been tragically cut short, he would likely have achieved recognition as one of the finest pianists of his time.

The artistic qualities of Werner Haas have not been forgotten. Every year nearly 100,000 CD´s, MC´s and LP´s are ordered from Polygram BV in L-3740 AA Baam and in Paris from Philips Classics Production, F-92164 Antony-Cédex by music fans in Europe, America and Japan. It is to be hoped that as well as the works of Ravel, Debussy and Tchaikovskij and the piano concerto of S. Rachmaninov and Gershwin that Philips/Polygram will offer CD´s with early recordings of Werner Haas playing Frédéric Chopin, L.v. Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn and 15 Toccatas from three centuries.

Source: Werner Haas Website; All Music Guide (Author: Robert Cummings)Wikipedia Website (March 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2013)

Werner Haas: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Werner Haas (Official Website) [Mostly German]

Werner Haas - Biography (AMG)
Werner Haas - pianist (Wikipedia)

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