Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus, D899, D935 (1827)
Amir Katz (piano)
rec. 27-28 February 2015, Funkhaus Nalepasstrasse Saal 1, Berlin, Germany
ORFEO C898151A [63:37]

Amir Katz is an Israeli pianist in his early forties. His recordings include Chopin’s Nocturnes, Ballades and Impromptus, and Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, with tenor Pavol Breslik. The song-cycle is especially relevant to this project, as Katz sees Schubert’s eight Impromptus as a “drama in eight stages”, almost a set of lieder without a singer. In his informative and provocative notes, Katz makes the point that the pieces in what we know as the second set (D935) were originally numbered 5-8, reinforcing the idea that Schubert conceived the impromptus as a continuous composition. Katz is a little vague on what story he believes Schubert to be telling. The narrative seems to be about journeys and fathers but you need not accept Katz’s perspective to enjoy what he does with this wonderful music.

Many great pianists have recorded these pieces. Katz belongs with the best. His playing is marked by clarity, with taut rhythms and rather controlled rubato and pedal. He avoids sentimentality and is thoughtful as to detail. His Schubert is very much a classicist, albeit one bursting with the ardent drama of early romanticism. Katz’s interpretation emphasizes the kinship of the Impromptus to the world of Schubert’s lieder, reminding the listener of such dramatic songs as “Der Zwerg” or “Der Doppelgänger”.

To compare Katz to some well-regarded Schubertians, his Impromptus are somewhat less lyrical than those of Maria-João Pires, but often more heroic. András Schiff’s recent fine fortepiano recording is softer-grained, and with fewer flashes of virtuosity. Listen to Katz’s exhilarating conclusion to the set at the end of D142 no. 4.

Orfeo provides rich and detailed sound for this disc, which is an exemplary piano recording.

This engaging and thoughtful recording sits comfortably along the finest versions of the Impromptus.

Richard Kraus

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