With every succeeding Katz release from Cembal d’amour one’s sense
of his importance as an artist grows. It’s not that he was neglected
exactly, rather that he seems in retrospect to have been known
more for what he wasn’t than for what he was. The Khachaturian
Concerto recording may have had something to do with the impression
of him as an extrovert colourist. That was however a function
of a work that he played conspicuously well. What he was, to put
it simply, was an artist of great artistry and eloquence.
These performances are derived from Pye recordings made in London in the 1960s. They show Katz
in the central repertoire and sounding fully at home. There
is a trio of Brahms recordings. The Rhapsody in G minor in particular
is an embodiment of his stature. The gradations of touch and
tone, the powerful pointing of the left hand, the rhythmic acuity,
the control of time and suspense – these are all qualities that
ensure the magnificence of this performance. Drama and poetry
are held in perfect equipoise, whilst Katz still ensures that
the universal verities of architectural surety are followed.
He neither breaks up the piece paragraphally as so many are
wont to do, but neither dos he rush, the other besetting sin
of this performance. It’s a terrifically impressive performance.
The E flat Rhapsody re-established these qualities and one I’ve
not yet mentioned – the teak-dark tone Katz evokes. Here he
brings out the music’s terpsichorean profile with power and
radiant refinement, the two qualities yet again held in fine
balance, qualities once more that are fully at the service of
the music. The final Brahms item is the B flat minor Intermezzo
Op.117 No.2, a feast of delicacy and sustained legato phrasing,
and where once more the gradations of tone are seemingly infinite.
I’ve concentrated on this trio of performances for one simple reason;
they’re wonderful. This however is no less applicable of the
recital as a whole. Haydn and Beethoven occupy an important
place here. The former’s Arietta and variations has warmth and
clarity, a fully rounded tone, and as always with Katz just
the right colours and textures. His sense of brio is manifest
here, as he responds to Haydn’s brio in kind – rhythms are alert,
and tonal balance is optimum. The Beethoven variations are elegant
and commanding, variously eloquent or quick-witted. Then there
is the Moonlight sonata. Cembal d’amour has issued a DVD which
contains the performance Katz gave of this sonata in Istanbul in 1978 a few hours before
he died (see review).
I called his performance there one of rare sensitivity and insight
and so it was with this earlier performance – controlled, eloquent,
not ponderous and profoundly satisfying. The Mephisto Waltz
that ends the recital shows us the virtuoso Katz at his best,
an exciting and suitably vibrant performance. Incidentally neither
this nor the Moonlight have been previously released.
Those who have been following this series will know what to expect.
Newcomers might like to hitch a ride to this much-missed master
in this latest example of his great musicianship.