Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.22 in E flat, K482 (1785) [34:48]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 (1829-30) [31:27]
Mindru Katz (piano)
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/Yuval Zaliouk
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Yuval Zaliouk
rec. 31 December 1974, Cardiff (Mozart) and 31 May 1975, Scotland (Chopin)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 142 [66:16]

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 Symphony.

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.

Jonathan Woolf