Cyprien Katsaris Live at the Schubertiade Festival = SCHUBERT: Klavierstueck No. 1 in E-flat Minor, D. 946; Klavierstueck No. 2 in E-flat Major, D. 946; Laendler Suite, D. 366; From 12 Laendler, D. 790; From 12 Deutsche Taenze, D. 420; 3 Lieder (trans. Liszt): Staendchen; Der Mueller und der Bach; Ave Maria; Piano Sonata No. 23 in B-flat Major, D. 960; Improvisations on Themes of TCHAIKOVSKY and WAGNER; MARCELLO: Adagio (trans. Bach) – Cyprien Katsaris, piano – Piano 21 P21 042-A (2 CDs) 57:51, 55:36 [Distr. By Allegro] ****:
Performing at the Konservatorium Feldkirch, Austria for the Schubertiade Festival, 3 July 1993, virtuoso Cyprien Katsaris provides a marathon evening of the Austrian musician’s lyrical works, making of the piano a superlative Aeolian Harp. Opening with two of the three so-called Klavier Pieces (so designated by Brahms, who edited them) of 1828, Katsaris plays the extended edition of the E-flat Minor, its Allegro assai an agitated grouping of dark chromatic elements surrounding a tender middle section interspersed with wistful episodes. The E-flat Major Allegretto proves more poetically romantic, structured as a berceuse that erupts in its middle section into syncopated melancholy. A pity that Katsaris did not complete the sequence with the rustic bravura of No. 3.
The vast numbers of Schubert waltzes, German dances, and laendler contribute to his corpus of work what the Chopin mazurkas accomplish for his oeuvre: an apotheosis of the dance. Eminently lyric and vocal, they spin out countless melodies in spontaneous panoply, which Katsaris does his best to realize in fervent strophes and stretti. The 1823 D. 790 set have often been selected as representative of the genre, as the pieces form a kind of nostalgic cycle. Katsaris uses the No. 1 from D. 366 as a prologue and epilogue to his engaging survey of these charming miniatures. Each of the three song transcriptions elicits from Katsaris a desire to outshine the last in fullness of expressive harmony. By the time Katsaris sounds the last chords from Ave Maria, we feel that he and Schubert have serenaded Music itself, our capacity for joy in in pleasure and pain.
The monumental 1828 D. 960 Sonata in B-flat Major receives from Katsaris a most gracious treatment; to me, his approach resembles that of Artur Rubinstein, who allowed the music its poetry and drama without subjective intervention. Expansive without having become lugubrious and heavy, the interpretation moves with singular grace and motor efficiency. Even the ominous trill that intrudes upon the meditative ethos of the first movement Molto moderato does not belabor its tragic muse. I might have wished for a bit more legato in the lovely singing of the Andante sostenuto, though the cautious opening elements Katsaris handles without drag. The Scherzo emanates a scintillating energy, all bounce and optimism except for its brief sojourn into gloom in the Trio. The lithe delicate fabric of the Allegro man on troppo finale lies in its huge arches of filigree, the application of pearls of sound in Apollinian symmetry. Not since I heard Lorin Hollander in this sonata live in concert, c. 1972, has the blend of architecture and poetic utterance found such happy equilibrium to my ears.
In his two encores, Katsaris acknowledges his own dual impulses: the facile panache of the Tchaikovsky-Wagner complex of tunes challenges Earl Wild and Leopold Godowsky for contrapuntal invention and the superimposition of motifs: from The Nutcracker and a bit of the Pathetique Symphony; but the “Scene” from Swan Lake reigns colossal until superseded by bold strokes from the “Pilgrim’s Chorus” from Wagner’s Tannhauser. The Bach transcription of the Adagio from Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto complements the bravura of the occasion with that singular simplicity and spiritual transparency of which the great ones remain magically capable. Little wonder that many connoisseurs concur Katsaris best wears the mantle of Vladimir Horowitz.
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