This CD can be purchased over the internet at
www.software-partners.co.uk/pkatin.htm who can take credit card
payments. Sales are already going very well.
Any recording of Peter Katin is always welcome
and this disc celebrates over fifty years of his dedication to
music. His is an exceptional talent often unrealised because he
is not a showman or a show-off. Nor is he an eccentric like Richter
or Pachmann. Neither is he a demonstrative pianist with a tendency
to musical madness as is Kissin. And he is a very secure player,
dependable and all that he does makes sense. He takes a lot of
time to know the music he records so that when he does record
it he knows its every nuance and turn. There are exceptions, as
he has told me, and such works which he has not recorded, such
as Rachmaninov's glorious Piano Concerto no. 4 in G minor and
Prokofiev's Piano Concerto no. 3, he has deliberately not committed
to disc although he has played both works. He felt that he did
not know them well enough.
He is a slow learner not because of any deficiency
but because of his thoroughness.
People are quick to forget the great artists
of yesteryear. Peter gave his stunning debut at the Wigmore hall
in 1948 and his Proms debut in 1952 was Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto
no.2 (his best concerto) with Sargent followed in 1953 with Rachmaninov's
truly great Piano Concerto no. 3 in D minor, conducted by John
Hollingsworth which performance is still talked about. In fact
this concerto was repeated in 1970 and televised. After watching
Kissin's ghastly and wayward performance of Brahms' Second Concerto
at the 2002 Proms, I played Katin's version in the Proms of 1957,
also under Sargent, which was simply staggering and kept to the
It is the total lack of eccentricity and personal
foibles that endears Katin's performances to the wise musical
He was initially known as the performer of the
warhorses namely the big and demanding concertos of Brahms, Rachmaninov
and Tchaikovsky and he was afraid that he was being typecast.
His playing of the Beethoven concertos is exemplary although his
orchestras and conductors have sometimes been lacking.
I treasure a broadcast of Beethoven's Concerto
no. 3 in C minor and also of the Emperor. His Mozart is very fresh
and the sonatas were available on Olympia and they are very fine.
In the recording studio he has not always been
well served. His Schumann concerto with Eugene Goossens was a
truly brilliant performance (the cadenza was staggering) but spoilt
by a swimming pool sound. One of his Tchaikovsky B flat minor
Concerto performances was ruined by the conductor Edric Cundell
who treated the orchestra as if it were a German brass band without
refinement or taste. But then Cundell was not a professional conductor
and this recording was a budget one for an American company called
Katin recorded a double album of popular piano
pieces for Pickwick, a brave move. His recordings with Boult of
Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 1 and the Tchaikovsky Concert
Fantasia are still the best, yet reviewers never seem to refer
to them. His Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 was very fine pianistically
under Colin Davis who was learning the trade and was very kind
to Peter. His performance of the Grieg with Sir John Pritchard,
a very unrated conductor, is the touchstone for all performances.
Among his earliest recordings are the Mendelssohn
concertos under Anthony Collins and the Liszt Totentanz with Jean
Martinon who was a most disagreeable man, I recall.
And then Peter shocked us, and very pleasantly,
by recording the Piano Concerto no. 3 by William Mathias. The
Welsh composer studied the piano with Katin. This concerto was
not Peter's usual repertoire but it is a sensational performance
and Mathias told me that!
Probably the best British piano concerto in the
tonal tradition is that of Sir Arthur Bliss which Peter was asked
to play at the Cheltenham Festival and at the express wish of
the composer. However there was not enough time in Peter's busy
schedule for him to learn it.. This is a fine concerto which Philip
Fowke, one of Peter's pupils, has taken up with great success.
Sir William Walton told me that working with
Katin on his Sinfonia Concertante was a real delight.
It is the honesty and integrity of Peter Katin
that impresses me not only in his performances but as a person.
He admits that if he does not do justice to certain pieces he
no longer plays them. For example, he used to regularly play Scarlatti
sonatas and well, but not now.
I admire Katin's playing of Bach although some
purists might object. He does not indulge in all those annoying
baroque/classical caricatures. He plays Bach with a sweetness
and tenderness which is very appealing. It has been said that
most pianists put the brains in their playing of Bach but Katin
puts in Bach's heart and is the only one who does! There is something
strangely precious about this performance of the B flat minor
Prelude and Fugue. For an 18 year old it is truly remarkable and
The Mozart is also played with that rewarding
simplicity of style and admirable clarity. As with the Bach all
the detail is there. It is as if you have never heard it before.
I put on several other recordings made by famous names, which
I will not mention here; some were bombastic, others performed
trills as an actor would ham it up or as if it were camp, and
others took it at breakneck speed and yet others missed out notes
and so on.....
But it is the Beethoven that is the greatest
revelation. How well Katin avoids all the clichés. He is
aware that Beethoven did not call this sonata the Moonlight. It
is this daft title which causes people to play the opening movement
slowly, quietly and dreamily and turn it into a sickly mess. Not
Katin. Listen to the clever shift of the left hand semibreve octaves,
the exquisite phrasing and note that the music does not drag.
The deftness of the scherzo is telling. The finale sparkles and
is very exciting. Some will quibble at the descending right hand
double octave passages and the fact that they are signalled by
what appears to be a rest. They stand out perhaps a little too
prominently but what a dramatic effect they make and they do not
contradict the score. In fact it is the other pianists who get
it wrong. When this theme appears for the second time Beethoven
marks it subito forte and so that is how Peter plays it.
That I do not like Schubert is no secret. His
music is too repetitive and often not developed. Prettiness in
music is not enough for me since that can be superficial. But
I will listen to Peter playing Schubert because he avoids all
the slushiness and nausea that most people bring to this music;
more so because of Katin's scintillating fingerwork. Trevor Harvey
once wrote of Katin,"He performs fantastic feats of prodigious
Debussy's Suite Bermamasque is given a glowing
performance and this time moonlight was in the composer's mind
for the movement he entitled Clair de lune. Katin is not
indulgent and we have a straight and, consequently, a fine performance.
I do not like Chopin's Opus 61 and, taking a
leaf from Peter's book, will not comment although following it
in the score reveals this version as a true performance. It is
Chopin's most fussy work. The score is littered with directions.
It takes some getting to know.
David C F Wright
See David Wright's
interview with Peter Katin
Peter Katin is at the Wigmore Hall, London on 16 July 2003
playing: Mozart Sonata (K280), Schubert Impromptus D899, Debussy
Two Arabesques and Childrens Corner, Chopin Nocturne Op 62 no.1