The exploratory and in many ways revelatory series of Mindru
Katz (1925-78) releases
from Cembal d’amour continues with this concerto diptych. It traces Katz’s
visits to Britain in the mid-1970s, performances given in tandem with conductor
Yuval Zaliouk who was at about this time restoring the fortunes of the Haifa
The tapes derive from Katz’s widow and were, in information I take from
a note from Mordecai Shehori of Cembal d’amour, in parlous condition. Clearly
considerable restoration work has been undertaken to ensure that they are up
to an acceptable standard. Apart from a slightly midrange type of sound, there’s
not a great deal to show that anything was really amiss - which must stand as
a tribute to the restorative efforts involved, which sound to have been laborious,
to put it mildly. There’s a tape blip at 3:15 in the opening movement of
the Mozart concerto but otherwise things are very listenable indeed.
That Mozart is the Concerto No.22 in E flat, K482, and was recorded in Cardiff.
It’s played with corporate strengths, the first movement sounding masculine
and assertive, Katz’s left hand pointing registering with aplomb. Textures
are warm, dynamics well judged, and Katz essays the Reinecke cadenzas - fluent
and committed playing, indeed heroically so. The recording, being quite ‘present’,
can’t quite impart the veil fully necessary to convey the subtleties of
Katz’s playing and things emerge, therefore, a degree more assertively
than might really been the case. Nevertheless one admires the phraseology, and
that of the wind principals, as well as their take on the finale. Here the operatic
stance of the writing is properly realised and released, and the level of witty
badinage evoked is thoroughly engaging.
The companion concerto was recorded ‘somewhere in Scotland’ as they
used to say in the days of the blackout. Once again Zaliouk is on the rostrum;
the orchestra is the BBC Scottish Symphony. Katz was a conspicuously fine Chopin
player, as previous examples of his art have demonstrated, and he certainly doesn’t
disappoint here. This is musicianship that bespeaks nobility, unostentatious
filigree, tonal allure and digital excellence. His legato is refined, the treble
runs are bedecked. And he can certainly ratchet up the tension as he does, quite
startlingly, if briefly, in the second movement. His finale is buoyant and engaging,
strongly communicative, the accompaniment alert.
Katz’s early death was a grievous loss. Releases such as this show us how,
and why, and whet the appetite for more revelatory examples of his art.