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Christopher Czaja Sager (Piano)

Born: New York, USA

The American pianist, Christopher Czaja Sager, was born into a family distinguished by dancers, writers, painters and musicians of English, Irish and Polish ancestry. His first piano teacher, Frances Moyer Kuhns, herself a student of Alfred Cortot and Matthay, noted early, that Czaja Sager had a special affinity for the music of J.S. Bach, Frédéric Chopin, W.A. Mozart and Robert Schumann, Debussy, Scriabin and Arnold Schoenberg, composers who have remained central to his repertoire. Emil Danenberg, an assistant of A. Schoenberg and student of Eduard Steuermann and Rosina Lhévinne, at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, were his major professors at conservatoire level (Mme Lhévinne was a fellow student together with Scriabin of Safonov).

In the USA Christopher Czaja Sager won several important First Prizes, including the ”National Auditions for Pianists” in Washington D.C., First Prize of the Harpsichord Society of New York, the “Van Cliburn Alumni Scholarship of the Juilliard School of Music”, the “Biennial Recording Competition” and the first “Artist Support Fund Award”. After participation in the 1969 Vienna International Piano Master Class with Badura-Skoda, Brendel and Jörg Demus, Christopher Czaja Sager was unanimously awarded the “Förderungs Stipendium” to further his career.

In the early 1970’s Christopher Czaja Sager made his first two tours in Europe, introducing several new compositions by American composers, but also performing seldom-heard compositions by J.S. Bach (4 Duette BWV 802-805) and Scriabin (Poème Nocturne, 3rd Sonata, for example). After his successful Lincoln Centre debut in New York City, Olga Koussevitsky, who had attended this recital and was most impressed with Czaja Sager’s performance of Scriabin, immediately invited him as the only pianist to perform in her benefit concert in 1973 celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birthday of Sergei Rachmaninov. In 1975 Czaja Sager moved permanently to Holland.

Christopher Czaja Sager is highly regarded by music critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Upon hearing Christopher`s first Berlin recital, the distinguished music critic Gottfried Eberle wrote in Der Tagesspiegel the following: “The phenomenally talented pianist, Christopher Czaja Sager, who comes from the United States, was trained there in the best musical tradition, and in him one finds combined all the qualities that have become so rare in his generation: a complete technique as a natural asset, but above all, a sense of fantasy, for the poetic, for the most characteristic of the great piano music of the 19th century. More concretely, this means his playing is multidimensional, that fore- and background are carefully separated, and that it has a wonderful flexibility in tempo which lets the music breathe in wide arcs”.

One can perhaps understand Eberle`s review, because Christopher Czaja Sager studied with several of the greatest exponents of various European late 19th and early 20th century musical traditions: Rosina Lhévinne and Wolfgang Rosé, son of the cellist of the Rosé Quartet and family and student of Artur Schnabel and Walter Gieseking. Other important pedagogues were Fenner Douglass and Sylvia Marlowe, harpsichord, and the composer Stefan Wolpe, analysis.

Further studies, notably with the clavichordist Hans Philips and the pianists György Sebök and Earl Wild, broadened Christopher Czaja Sager's musical horizons. He has made a deep study of J.S. Bach`s ”Clavier-Übung”, the cycle which he has recorded and performed throughout Europe since the J.S. Bach year 1985 with great success and again recently in 2000 in the “Bach-250” Festival in Bucharest (Romania), during the “Bach-Days” at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara and Istanbul’s First Baroque Festival and in London with a series of three recitals named “Invitation to the Dance”, in which, together with other masterpieces of the last three centuries, the six Partitas of J.S. Bach (BWV 825-830) were central. He performed several all-J.S. Bach recitals in Germany, in 2000, in Bochum and Meissen.

Christopher Czaja Sager has given recitals throughout Europe and master-classes in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Holland, Iceland and the USA. As a soloist he has performed a.o. with the conductors Horia Andreescu, Gürer Aykal, Leon Barzin, Ernest Bour, Sir Edward Downes, James Levine, Antonio Ros Marba, Kenneth Montgomery, Leif Segerstam, Ed Spanjaard and Dirk Vermeulen.

Christopher Czaja Sager has made many productions for radio, a.o. the BBC, the Bavarian Broadcasting Co., the NRK, the ORF, the WDR and the Dutch broadcasting companies. In 2001 the Turkish Television made a live recording of his performance with the State Symphony Orchestra of Izmir of W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto Nr. 24, KV 491. His CD recording of J.S. Bach’s 6 Partitas (BWV 825-830) inspired Michael Stenger, the music critic of the WAZ, to write: “This is one of the most important piano-productions of recent years”. Especially in the UK his CD recordings of Clementi and Robert Schumann have received exceptional critical praise. The composer Stefan Wolpe wrote: “Christopher Czaja Sager is truly perceptive, sensitive and imaginative and a deeply-gifted musician of rare qualities and values. He is worthy of the highest expectations and highest values”.

Source: Christopher Czaja Sager Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2007)

Christopher Czaja Sager: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Review: Partitas by Sager

Links to other Sites

Christopher Czaja Sager - Pianist (Official Website)


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