Mindru Katz Plays in Concert = CHOPIN: 24 Preludes, Op. 28; MARCELLO: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D Minor (arr. J.S. Bach); KABALEVSKY: 3 Preludes from Op. 38 – Mindru Katz, piano – Cembal d’amour CD 167, 51:34 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Romanian-Israeli pianist Mindru Katz (1925-1978) once again delivers his especial poetry from concerts taped in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, 1969 and 1974. There might be something of Wilhelm Kempff’s noble austerity in the performance of the lovely Adagio (4 November 1974) by Marcello as arranged by Bach, its evolving singing line held in rapt and flexible attention.
Katz had fashioned by many years’ experience his own approach to Chopin’s rubato, and we can well savor the results in the set of 24 Preludes (rec. 11 March 1969) as the individual poems pass through the circle of fifths. Spare use of the pedal but pregnant pauses and defined bass proffer the lovely symmetries of the C Major ,while the A Minor provides its direct antithesis, the agogics irregular and hesitant, fraught with existential, jarring dissonances and metric anxieties. The huge silence at the middle has us hovering in space like Ezekiel’s prophetic wheel. Suave running figures for the G Major lead directly to the subtlety-rendered E Minor, intimate and melancholic. Katz’s many levels of diminuendo could teach volumes. Cross rhythmic part writing for the D Major has Katz articulate in the phrase groups. Pregnant pauses, accelerandi, and a seductive legato for the B Minor. After a demure A Major, the F-sharp Minor plummets ahead in rounded, passionate figures, glittering as well as turbulent.
We hold a long breath awaiting No. 9 in E, but the fermata was well worth it, if only for the Katz bass trill. The progression could be a compressed journey to Calvary. No. 11 plays like a syncopated etude, with Katz’s providing an anchored bass line beneath Chopin’s eminently vocal top voice. No. 12 explodes in the first of the pungent mazurka studies, the Katz rocket ship quite capable of whirling its way to the stratosphere. F-sharp Major by Katz beguiles us with a sensuous nocturne of sultry beauty. Romantic Agony becomes personified in the E-flat Minor, an assault by Katz in 40 seconds. The “Raindrop” Prelude receives a broadly colored and delicate reading, one to compete with Cherkassky’s classic inscription on the Tudor label 30 years ago. Another supercharger for Katz in the form of the B-flat Minor, a virtual etude taken at astonishing speed, rife with jarring accents and Herculean leaps. Encore! My personal favorite, No. 17 in A-flat Major, which possesses a unique wisdom, as Katz knows, much of it tragic. Dark thoughts in Chopin’s rarified counterpoint for No. 19 in F Minor, with Katz’s supplying an awesome bass line. The more “Schumannesque” E-flat Major again has Katz moving between rounded arpeggios, detached chords, and lovely syncopes. Good speed maintains the taut line of the C Minor, else the rhythmic shifts lose their symmetry.
Katz seems to view the last four preludes as a dramatic group, a sonata in miniature: the B-flat Major anticipates late Brahms in its wistfully broken figures and off-beat accents that suddenly flare up in exalted defiance. The G Minor uncompromisingly asserts a grand passion that sweeps away all before an imperious will. The F Major captures every conceit of “water music” for the Romantic temperament, both hands contributing to a ravishing patina, quite luxurious in its compression. And the D Minor at last, with Katz’s left hand hurling down the dizzy abyss along with Hurd Hatfield’s Dorian Gray. NB: I found the volume level for the Preludes a bit low and so turned up the level so that Katz’s stylistic resonance could work its magic.
Three preludes from Kabalevsky’s set Op. 38, also conceived along the circle of fifths (rec. 4 November 1974) present us a lyrically autumnal F-sharp Minor, a somberly passionate B Minor, and toccata-like E-flat Minor, the last a kind of reminiscence, at first, of the last movement of the Chopin B-flat Minor Sonata, until it breaks into a dervish etude in breathless figures from Katz that leave us wishing there were more.
Mid-century performances, Eduard Erdmann, piano