Cyprien Katsaris - Live in Shanghai
Latin-American programme
Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
rec. International Piano Festival of Shanghai Conservatory of Music, 2 October 2007
Picture: 4:3. Sound: stereo. No region code
PIANO 21 DVD P21 035-N [106:00]
Cyprien Katsaris has the looks of Dan Leno and the ingratiating charm of a boulevardier. He also possesses digital brilliance, and demonstrates the fact in this Latin-American programme filmed in recital at Shanghai Conservatory of Music on 2 October 2007.
What panache, what bravura! Certainly, an entire programme of pieces by Pablo Chávez Aguilar, Augustín Barrios Mangore, Ernesto Nazareth, Ignacio Cervantes and the like — and the like also takes in Ernesto Elorduy and Rubén Campos and others — may not appeal to sober sides who want their regulation three sonatas and high-minded encores. Katsaris can do that, too, but not here. Here the accent is on the positive, on the intriguing, and the exotically spiced. The recital was structured around various Latin American countries, from Peru, to Paraguay, then onto Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, and finally Mexico.
Each set of pieces is prefaced by a talk to audience from the pianist, microphone in hand, in English and then his native French. A voiceover sometimes aids things for the viewer, and sometimes hinders. A translator, dressed in crimson, translates his introductions into Chinese. Sometimes they confer about matters linguistic and hammer out an appropriate phrase. The opening speech is long, around seven minutes, so you may be tempted to fast forward to the music. You’d thereby lose the intimacy and charm of those distillation introductions that do tell one quite a bit about the music and the pianist’s thoughts on it.
The recital was divided into two parts. In the first there was, amongst much else by these composers, Aguilar’s fascinating Preludios Incaicos, replete with dazzling quasi-chinoiserie, Villa-Lobos’ stirring Coral (beautifully played) and Nazareth’s Odeon dispatched with true virtuosity but also a whimsical enjoyment of its charm. Highlights of the second part include Ginastera’s haunting, and hauntingly played, Danza Argentina No.2 and the tristesse purveyed by Piazzolla’s Chiquilin de Bachin. Katsaris also supplies his own free translation of Gerardo Matos Rodriguez’s La Cumparsita, a virtuosic piece of drama. He is so taken by Ponce’s lovely Intermezzo, or so taken by something someone in the audience says, that Katsaris briefly banters with them. He has a populist touch and the repertoire encourages emotional repartee like this. Stay to the end, where you’ll find José Antonio Gomez’s Variaciones sobre el Tema del Jarabe Mexicano distilled and driven onward in a blur of pianistic brilliance.
He plays two encores, remarkably European: Schumann’s Arabeske and Chopin’s Waltz in C sharp minor.
This recital combines drama, virtuosity, poetry and a highly personalised sense of barnstorming. Some may well consider the repertoire rather ‘samey’ but I find sufficient contrast. I also find the playing spectacular, and often breathtaking. The only demerit concerns the picture quality, and lighting, which is not that well defined, and being rather grainy, lacks clarity.
If you look, and listen, beyond that, though, there is a dazzler of a recital here.
Jonathan Woolf
A dazzler of a recital.