Posted Online: April 10, 2013, 10:44 am

Davenport native returns to play with QCSO

Comment on this story

By Jonathan Turner,

Pianist Tom Sauer.

Pianist Tom Sauer will have a meaningful reunion this weekend with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, as he performs under the baton of a fellow music-school grad.

Mr. Sauer, a 47-year-old Davenport native, will tickle the ivories for the first time locally since his last solo with the QCSO inNovember 2007, when he played the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2. For the first time this weekend, he will solo under conductor Mark Russell Smith (a classmate of his at the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia) in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, known as the "Emporer."

"I'm always happy to play that piece. I find it just incredibly uplifting, high-spirited -- a great piece of music," said Mr. Sauer, who founded the 13th annual Beethoven Institute (a six-day seminar) at New York City's Mannes College of Music. He earned his master's in music from Mannes and a doctorate in musical arts from the City University of New York.

"I've certainly come to know a lot about Beethoven's music, but I don't really think of myself as a specialist," Mr. Sauer said. "I play everything -- old music, new music. People have come to associate me with that (Beethoven) repertoire."

Of Mr. Smith, who was named QCSO music director in 2008, the pianist said: "I was so pleased when I heard he got the job. He's a very good musician, a serious guy and a very good guy. I really look forward to seeing him again."

The famous Emporer Concerto was written in 1809, while Austria was at war with France. Beethoven moved to the countryside, where he made great progress on several compositions, according to QCSO program notes. During that tumultuous year, he managed to complete a piano sonata, a string quartet and his Fifth Piano Concerto, nicknamed "Emperor" because of its dedication to Austria's Archduke Rudolph.

Mr. Sauer -- who left Davenport Central High School at 16 to attend Curtis in piano -- grew up playing both violin and piano. He performed multiple piano concertos with the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1982, and went on to become an international soloist, a chamber musician and teacher.

"I really love it all, in different ways," Mr. Sauer said of his multi-faceted career. "I play fewer concerti than solo recitals and chamber music. I have a very long-term partnership with an English cellist, Colin Carr. We first played together in 1993, in the Quad-Cities."

He and his brother Greg, an Eastman-trained cellist, started Chamber Music Quad Cities in 1993, running it until 2007, when they performed their last concert in Davenport. The Sauer brothers and Tom's violinist wife, Serena Canin, performed Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the QCSO in 2002. They also have performed regularly as a trio.

With Mr. Carr,Mr. Sauer has appeared at the Wigmore Hall (London), Holywell Music Room (Oxford), the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Bargemusic (New York City), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston) and Princeton University, among many other venues. Other appearances include recitals with Midori at the Philharmonie in Berlin and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels; performances with members of the Juilliard String Quartet at the Library of Congress; and numerous concerts with the Brentano String Quartet (in which Ms. Canin is a member).

Mr. Sauer has done recent concerto performances with the Tallahassee Symphony and the Greenwich Village Orchestra; solo performances at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Rockefeller University and St. John's College, Oxford; appearances on Broadway as the pianist in "33 Variations," a play about the composition of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations; and performances at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Mr. Sauer's discography includes recordings of Beethoven and Haydn piano sonatas for MSR Classics, and the complete cello and piano works of Mendelssohn with Colin Carr on Cello Classics. He is a member of the music faculty of Vassar College and the piano faculty at Mannes College.

Since his parents no longer live in the Quad-Cities, Mr. Sauer has not been back here to visit since 2007. Gregteaches at Florida State University, and they have cousins in Cedar Rapids, who will come down for this weekend's program -- which also features Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.

Tom Sauer's wife will perform with the Brentano quartet Sunday at University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, he noted.

"I enjoy seeing people in the orchestra that I like -- such as David Pope (a violist who taught strings while Mr. Sauer was at McKinley School in Davenport)," he said. His parents bought a violin from Carol Phoenix (who also plays in the QCSO) for him to play. "Some people I've known for a very long time."

He and his wife have two children, ages 11 and 7.

Only a few hours after Sunday's concert, the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra will take the Centennial Hall stage to perform its Spring Concert at 7 p.m. This year Jacob Warner, a senior at Davenport North High School, is the winner of the annual Concerto Competition and will perform the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by Shostakovich.

The youth orchestra tickets are $10. For more information, visit

If you go

-- What: Quad City Symphony Orchestra
-- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
-- Where: Adler Theatre, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport (Sat.) and Centennial Hall, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island (Sun.).
-- Tickets: $8 to $51 Sat. and $10 to $32 Sun., available at Adler box office, QCSO office (327 Brady St., Davenport), and 563-322-QCSO (7276).

NOTE: An Inside the Music lecture is offered today at 5:30 p.m., at Hotel Blackhawk, 200 E. 3rd St., Davenport. Doors open at 5 p.m. with free hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar available. Music director Mark Russell Smith also will be available at Concert Conversations, held in the concert hall an hour before each of the weekend's concerts.

After the Saturday night performance, the audience is invited to mingle with Tom Sauer, the musicians of the QCSO and Mr. Smith in the lobby of the Hotel Blackhawk at Afterglow, which includes free hors d'oeuvres and cash bar.