Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Kinderszenen Op.15 (1838) [22:47]
Fantasie in C major Op.17 (1836-38) [33:51]
Mindru Katz (piano)
rec. 1974, live, Jerusalem
CEMBAL DíAMOUR CD 157 [56:42]

Mindru Katz (1925-78) is a musician I much admired and no company has done more to perpetuate his name than Cembal díAmour. They have had access to a number of concert tapes, via Zoara Katz, as well as to the more conventional studio recordings, and each release has been beneficial, revealing and valuable. This is no less the case with this all-Schumann recital, revealing of Katzís priorities and precepts in such central repertoire, and reflective of his august standards of music-making. If only he had lived to a ripe age.

Itís important for a critic to attempt to appreciate quite why a musician takes the path he does. Katzís Kinderszenen is quite measured, indeed often slow, and to some it will seem too static and undernourished. Yet what I sense in his approach is one of gradation, deft harmonic pointing, left hand accenting, and a concern not with speed but with texture and with a sense of narrative Ė both the individual narrative of each movement and the greater arching narrative of the work as a whole. Thus, whilst the opening may seem laboured, his little dripping left hand accenting and the application of significant rubato shows another side of the story. His Kuriose Geschichten is rather unsettled emotively, whilst GlŁckes genug is elegant and deftly pointed. Wichtige Begenheit is a bold march but doesnít over-balance other adjacent movements. Träumerei is very slow indeed, sensitively spun, but sometimes in danger of spilling over. Am Kamin seems reluctant to break the spell but the music springs back into life for Ritter vom Steckenpferd. Katz really does pile on the earnestness in Fast zu Ernst, taking the direction quite literally, and by Kind im Einschlummern he shows the kind of tempo flexibility that had earlier been rather lacking. The final tableau is gentle and delightful, albeit protracted.

Donít be disturbed by the timings for the Fantasie as thereís a rare typo, here claiming Katz drives through the opening in four minutes. Itís fourteen. Once again he makes a perfect Schumann sound and has a virtuosic technique, and sure expressive instincts. From time to time one might be aware of a loss of the kind of flowing excitement that others have generated, and again I do find that Katzís delayed sense of impetus can impede the natural direction of the music, certainly in the opening. Maybe too there are one or two discursive accents. But against that there is that variegated and noble tone, and plenty to mull over.

The in-concert performances were taped perfectly acceptably without obviously being in the freshest of contemporary sound. There is more Katz to come from this source, and one awaits it impatiently.

Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Kinderszenen

There is more Katz to come from this source, and one awaits it impatiently.