Cyprien Katsaris began his own label, Piano 21, back in 2001
and it has advanced rapidly. This is, for example, the seventh
instalment in his Mozart Concerto series and his archive continues
to generate discs at an almost industrial rate of productivity.
All the Mozart Concertos were recorded live with the Salzburg
Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Yoon Kuk Lee. Both
conductor and soloist are of one mind in the course of the two
concertos, and the Rondo, presented in this particular instalment.
The orchestra is imaginative, full of style, and well blended.
My occasional feeling that there was a lack of string weight
was often, but not always, confounded by a well rounded tutti.
One feature of the series as a whole has been Katsaris’ interest
in presenting variant cadenzas. In the case of the B flat major
he performs both of Mozart’s in their rightful place, but in
the much earlier work he adds, separately tracked, an extra
cadenza for each movement (three in all, therefore) — two are
‘B’ variants by Mozart but one, for the finale, is by Katsaris
Naturally this would be of some interest, but not overwhelmingly
so, if the performances were sluggish or stiff. Fortunately
they are nothing of the kind. They may not have the kind of
aura generated by, say, Curzon or Fischer in their Mozart recordings,
but then the aesthetic approach is different. The B flat major
shows how Katsaris plays with warmth but without a rococo quality,
or crystalline brilliance. He remains communicative at all times.
The strings of the orchestra vary and increase their bow pressure
sensitively in the slow movement and in the finale the horns
are rightly given their head though equally rightly not allowed
to obscure detail. The finale’s cadenza is played with a flourish,
but with control.
The D major concerto was written eighteen years earlier, when
Mozart was 17. It’s an excitingly verbose work, with dramatic
passagework and Alberti basses to the fore. It’s also a work
of self-confidence and velocity, played here with exciting vibrancy.
The slow movement is richly moulded but not indulged, whilst
the finale returns to the dynamism of the opening, including
fugal passages, imitative phrases and a real sense of brio.
Applause is cut short by Katsaris’ own cadenza for the finale.
I’m not wholly sure whether this is how he played it at the
concert — he’s something of a maverick on occasion, and I wouldn’t
put it past him — or whether this has been spliced in. The other
two cadenzas reveal Mozart’s alternative thoughts on the first
two movement’s cadenzas and they all provide plenty of interest.
The Rondo is rollicking good fun but the Adagio section reveals
Katsaris’ humanity and sensitivity. The ‘B’ cadenza, written
by Mozart, is also included.
A recommendation for this particular coupling depends really
on the conjoining of early and late concertos and the addition
of those cadenzas. But with an exceptionally quiet audience,
a feeling of collegiate interplay, and warm-hearted performances,
Katsaris’s take should not be overlooked.