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Alessandro MARCELLO (1684-1750)
Oboe Concerto in D minor (pub. 1717); Adagio, arr. Johann Sebastian Bach for keyboard [3:31]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1809-1847)
Preludes, Op.28 [43:30]
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Preludes, Op.38 (1943-44): Nos. 6 in B minor [1:12]; No.8 in F sharp minor [2:18]; No.14 in E flat minor [1:48]
Mindru Katz (piano)
rec. live, November 1974, Tel-Aviv (Marcello and Kabalevsky); March 1969 Jerusalem (Chopin)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD167 [51:34]

Once again the subtle art of Mindru Katz is brought back from the grave in performances given in Israel between 1969 and 1974. Consistently insightful he proves to be – or once again reveals himself to be – a Chopin exponent of the widest culture, stylistic taste, and expressive refinement. He plays the Op.28 Preludes with a notable sense of authority and narrative direction. The set begins potentially unpromisingly perhaps with a lot of see-sawing rubati in the C major and it makes for an uneasy, rather tart beginning. This feeling of unease and metrical displacement elides into the A minor where once again it’s not easy to detect the true spine of the individual Prelude. By the G major the freshness of Katz’s voicings is beginning to win through, his left hand being – and remaining – admirably clear throughout this taxing set. The B minor is especially attractive and effortlessly shaped, with Katz’s technical armoury perfectly sufficient to withstand any trials placed on it. The F sharp minor is genuinely poetic whilst in the D flat minor, taken quite slowly, and subject to rich dynamic variance, his lovely tone is at something like its zenith. He speeds up for the storm vesting it with power and drama. Possibly the radio recording slightly submerges his left hand here. The playing by this point has reached magisterial descriptive heights. The B flat minor generates tremendous excitement and flair, the F minor a righteous vehemence. The set gets better and better as it develops, rising and falling, driving ever onwards in a concentrated arc. It achieves distinction through purely musical means, and leaves behind an aura of compelling intensity and tonal lustre – though never – that last quality – for its own sake.
It’s the Preludes for which piano collectors should seriously consider this archival disc. The tapes come from Katz’s widow, Zoara and have been lovingly restored. There is also the matter of three selected Preludes from Kabalevsky’s Op.38 set, well chosen to display contrast and brevity. Katz also has time to display his own sublimated bravura and instinct for poetic, lyric phrasing. The disc actually begins with a piece that cries out for such refinement, Bach’s arrangement for keyboard of Marcello’s Adagio from his Oboe Concerto. This is the piece that Earl Wild played so beautifully, indeed memorably. Katz approaches it wholly differently. In his hands it’s not a valediction, but a nobly chiselled poem, a study in quietly extrovert yet elevated spirit. It would have served equally as well as an envoi, but it stands as the portal to this distinguished disc, which will well reward the listener searching out more of Katz’s precious legacy on disc.
Jonathan Woolf