cadenzas to Mozart concertos can become a selling point. Pollini
interestingly opted for Salvatore Sciarrino's cadenza for No.
21. Katsaris wrote his own for both concertos, but has recorded
as supplementary tracks alternative cadenzas - also by him -
for the first and last movements as well as providing quasi-improvisatory
flourishes at various points in the finale.
The recording is
clear and bright, as befits Mozart in C major mood. There is
perhaps a slight feeling of congestion in the mid-range, but
it is slight. Katsaris himself plays fluidly, lets in
the light and air, yet still highlights the ceremonial aspect
of No. 21's first movement. Semiquavers are even: a pleasure
to encounter. Yoon Kuk Lee provides expert support, fully at
one with Katsaris's conception. Try the bullet-like chords just
before the cadenza. The cadenza we hear as part of the performance
begins traditionally enough but soon wonders off on its own.
Strangely, just when one thinks Katsaris's imagination is warming
up, the orchestra re-enters!. Cadenza 'B', as it is called,
is superimposed onto the final applause, with the orchestra
lead-in restated. This is an altogether more playful affair,
with Katsaris clearly testing the boundaries, referring sometimes
to Liszt and at others, to Busoni. The registral limits of Mozart's
piano are jettisoned. At just under four minutes for this cadenza
alone, there is plenty of scope for fun and games, and indeed
there are plenty of those.
The famous slow
movement is a model of restraint and elegance, its atmosphere
successfully sustained to the very end. There is a touch too
much reverb to the recording of the opening of the finale. It
is clear the orchestra itself is stylish. Katsaris's opening
flourish - see note above - is fairly extended; his addition
later in the movement is just plain cheeky. He is clearly a
gentleman of much humour. Cadenza 'A' is a cascade of notes;
the tagged-on Cadenza 'B' is significantly more muscular, more
experimental and darker.
The Sixteenth Concerto,
one of the lesser played of the canon, opens in a blaze of Mozart's
most ceremonial D major. Here, Katsaris has Mozart's own cadenzas
in place so there are no alternatives. The orchestral exposition
is a joy. The conductor clearly understands Mozartian texture
and voice-leading as much as his pianist. Braying horns point
towards period practice.
The recorded piano
sound strikes me as a little duller than that for No. 21; sixteen
months separates the two performances. Yet Katsaris's finger-work
is every bit as sparkling. Christian Lorandin's booklet notes
ask why this concerto is not heard more often, but my ears tell
me that the first movement, at least, of this work is not the
equal of even No. 15, still less the great No. 17 in G.
sounds remarkably exploratory in Katsaris's reading. It melts
back into the orchestra before a rather brief coda. The slow
movement feels rather slower than an Andante, yet there is no
doubting its heartfelt nature; nor is there any doubting the
suavity of the orchestra's response to Mozart's divinely inspired
score. The finale is a Rondeau, and indeed begins as the epitome
of elegance. Chamber music is in the foreground here, in the
wind/piano interactions and elsewhere. There are some simply
stunning moments in the cadenza in terms of the way Katsaris
has considered texture and the way he weights his accompaniments
to fragments of melody.
All praise to Katsaris
for creating his own label, Piano 21, after many years recording
for a large variety of labels. The performances on this disc will
give much pleasure as well as stimulate much thought.