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Jonathan Woolf
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The legendary pianist Mindru Katz plays French Master Works
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes – Book I (1910) [38:10]
Préludes - Book II; La terrase des audiences du clair de lune (1913) [4:56]
Gabriel FAURE (1845-1924)
Nocturne in D flat major Op.63 No.6 [9:35]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Ma Mère l'Oye – No.3 Laideronette-Impératice de Pagôdes (1911) [3:03]
Sonatine (1905) [11:53]
Mindru Katz (piano)
rec. 1972, Jerusalem broadcast (Preludes Book 1); 1973 Tel-Aviv (Prelude Book 2); remainder late 1950s, from commercial Pye LPs
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 138 [67:52]


Experience Classicsonline

Cembal d’amour here enacts a restoration act that cuts two ways. It restores the fruits of commercial Pye LPs to the catalogue and it also disinters, most importantly, a 1972 Jerusalem radio broadcast and a small part of a 1972 Tel-Aviv one. Incidentally I think the LPs derive from the late 1950s – possibly 1958; the booklet states ‘1960s’.
The most substantial and revelatory thing however is the performance of Debussy’s Book 1 Preludes from the Jerusalem radio concert. It demonstrates yet again what an outstanding exponent Katz was, and of a wide variety of music – from the refinement of his Bach to the bravura of his Khachaturian and all stops in between. His Debussy evinces myriad nuances and strengths. His ethos is more toward, but in no way imitative of, that of (say) George Copeland than of Gieseking. There is a similar sense of clarity, and an avoidance of the cloudy pedal, that painterly wash that represents one school of Debussian pianism, but only one school. Katz’s Violes is not as deliberately ‘sec’ as Copeland’s but it too seeks strands of clarity. The pictorial breadth of Le vent dans la pleine – the flurries and eddies of the writing – are evocatively realised. Deftness, clarity (a watchword – no smudging) informs Les collines d’Anacapri whose melody line is never obscured by extraneous gestures. There should be no doubting the sovereign sense of animation and princely articulation in Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest nor the simplicity of phrasing with which he imbues La fille aux cheveux de lin.
That Katz was an exemplary exponent is clear by now. The single example from Book 2 – from a Tel-Aviv broadcast – demonstrates that he exercised full control and eerie sonorities in La terrase des audiences du clair de lune. In his 1933 Victor (the recordings are all on Pearl) Copeland is considerably faster; but Katz loses nothing in evocative suggestibility.
We also have examples of his Fauré and Ravel. Of the former there is just the D flat major Nocturne. With rhythmic control and an acute ear for the work’s harmony, he unveils its trajectory with great acumen. Its dreamier aspects are well attended to as well. Germaine Thyssens-Valentin is a full minute quicker – less dreamy [Testament] – but Katz is slightly more reminiscent of Jean-Philippe Collard. In any case this is insightful Fauré playing irrespective of points of comparison.
Finally there is Ravel. The Sonatine is from a Pye LP. Crisper, once more, than Gieseking, one finds that Katz’s approach is again one of aeration, clarity, light textures, and an uncluttered sense of direction. These are qualities confirmed by his Laideronette-Impératice de Pagôdes.
His early death was a grievous blow, but enough documentary evidence still exists to demonstrate just how complete an artist Katz was. Let us hope many more recordings will emerge to reinforce the point.
Jonathan Woolf



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