Mindru Katz plays = BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor”; SHOSTAKOVICH: Prelude in E-flat Minor, Op. 34; ENESCO: Suite for Piano, Op. 10; CHOPIN: Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53 “Heroic” – Mindru Katz, piano
Cembal d’amour CD 148, 71:51 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Pianist and producer Mordecai Shehori once more resurrects from the bountiful legacy of his teacher Mindru Katz (1925-1978) several superb examples of Katz’s catholic repertory, of which the sources derive from the late Romanian’s work in Britain. The Emperor Concerto from April 1959 with Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970) has already seen a 1999 reissue on the Dutton label (CDSJB 1013) through its collaboration with the Sir John Barbirolli Society. In this latest incarnation, fire and poetry mark every bar of the Emperor Concerto, Katz’s playing eminently as fluid as it is intelligently propulsive. The brilliance of Katz’s tone rings in pearly colors for the Adagio movement, his trill a seamless gradation of half steps that flow legato into the restatement of the theme over pizzicato strings. The final Rondo-Allegro has all participants alert to the buoyant dance that runs in a series of seven colorful permutations in crisp Viennese figures. The pearly play Katz manages quite beguiles, while his octave runs and chromatic leaps impress with their dynamism. Each restatement appears ever more energized than the last, and Barbirolli’s brass and tympanist are aflame as well. The last pages communicate the sheer elan of collaboration in the grand manner, thoroughly secure in every musical gesture.
The E-flat Minor Prelude by Shostakovich we may know better through Stokowski’s orchestral transcription than for itself, a dark, haunted miniature whose mood bespeaks a tragedy for an entire century. The Suite No. 2, Op. 10 (1903) by Georges Enesco opens rather aggressively with a “majestic” Toccata in D, and we feel its kinship with the Neo-Classic impulse that likewise inspired Ravel. The tissue softens considerably before diaphanous runs and modal scales move in swirling figures that approximate what the clavecinists might project in modern harmonies. The emotional center comes in the form of the extended Sarabande (“Noblement”), a strummed moment at first that provides us melody and transparent filigree with harmonic debts to Debussy and Faure. The emotional intensity increases without having distorted the curiously serene but dark pool of light the music evokes. The panoply of layered colors Katz conjures up suggest an entire school of painters, Corot and Watteau among them. A Pavane (“Lentement berce”) ensues, stately, in which Katz offers a Chinese pavilion at the keyboard, a series of Eastern colors in wind chimes. Mixed chords and trills prefigure much of the color world of Messaien, but here touched with gossamer and lace of nacre. Enesco is slow to relinquish the moment, and so the last pages keep extending the coda’s interior space. Finally, a Bourree (“Vivement”) in brisk octaves marcato e leggier, Katz’s staccati resonant and shimmering–often combining Bach and Stravinsky–without devolving into vulgar clangor. On the contrary, the performance makes us well ask why this eclectic, virtuosic suite does not enjoy a more loyal partisanship.
Our one encore consists of a 1959 Heroic Polonaise by Chopin, a soberly refined reading from Katz, plastic, fluid, and florid at once. Devoid of any trace of sentimentality, the noble carriage of the execution conveys a classical poise within the parameters of the national style Chopin celebrates. This chaste approach aligns Katz as much with the British pianist Solomon as Katz’s pedigree bespeaks the grand European tradition. The spirited gallop of the middle section becomes inflamed without any sacrifice of the interior pulse or the “nocturne” affections of the trio that return to militancy with renewed vigor.