Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor (1874) [32.15]
Concert Fantasia in G major (1885) [29.35]5]
Peter Katin (piano)
New Symphony Orchestra of London/Edric Cundell (concerto)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 11 May 1959 (concerto);  17-19 February 1958
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 7280 [61.59]

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor (1890-1 rev. 1917) [24.20]*
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor (1900-1) [34.29]+
Peter Katin (piano) (1930-2015)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (1)
New Symphony Orchestra of London/Sir Colin Davis (2)
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 17-19 February 1958 (1); 8 May 1959 (2)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 7281 [58.57]

It seems amazing that these two new Eloquence releases represent the first appearance of these recordings together on Decca CD – they were first issued on LP by Decca in the late 1950s and Rachmaninov 1 has put in an appearance on an earlier Decca Eloquence disc. How well I remember them, in their original LP formats. I recall rushing back to the flat I shared with two other young students in London’s Willesden Green to put them on our shared record player. Ah - the days of analogue LPs and the beginnings of stereo recordings. In those days Peter Katin, who died on 19 March this year (2015), was regarded very highly as one of the UK’s most promising pianists. The Daily Telegraph obituary writer commented that “Katin was from a generation of pianists that eschewed publicity and marketing, preferring to allow the integrity of the music to speak for itself.” The obituary accessed from the link above also makes reference to his performance of Rachmaninov’s fiendish Third Piano Concerto at the Albert Hall in 1953 that caused a sensation. What a pity that performance was never recorded - unless it was broadcast and a recording languishes in the BBC Archives.

In this review I will concentrate on the two more unfamiliar works conducted with drive and flair by Sir Adrian Boult. The most interesting is the Tchaikovsky Concert Fantasia. I cannot agree with Tchaikovsky expert David Brown when he asserted that “it contains not one strong idea”. Depends on what he meant by strong. For me it brims with good hummable tunes that have lingered in my mind for over fifty years and were instantly recognizable the moment I heard them again. Likewise the teaming of Boult and Katin delivered a very creditable performance of the too often overlooked Rachmaninov First Piano Concerto in its 1917 polished revision. This performance affected me so much that I remember playing the LP a goodly number of times at recorded music society meetings in London and the Midlands in those days.

Of the two war-horses, the more familiar concertos of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, it was interesting to hear Katin’s partnership with Sir Colin Davis in the latter concerto. This recording was made very early in Davis’s career after his breakthrough in 1957 when, at his third attempt, he secured the post of assistant conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra — now the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. In the year that this recording was made (1959) Sir Colin first found wide acclaim when he stood in for an ill Otto Klemperer in a performance of Don Giovanni, at the Royal Festival Hall. The Tchaikovsky B flat Minor finds Katin partnered with the composer/conductor Edric Cundell (1893-1961). In both instances Peter Katin’s nicely nuanced readings are memorable for their sensitivity and virtuosity.

A worthy tribute to the memory of a great and versatile British pianist.
Ian Lace

Note: the Tchaikovsky recordings have also been released by Pristine Audio PASC276: review

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