Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” (1801) [16:55]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Major, Op. 83 (1881) [47:08]
Mindru Katz (piano)
Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra/Mandi Rodan
rec. 16 June 1971, Tel-Aviv (sonata) and 3 October 1967, Jerusalem (Concerto)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD180 [64:09]

It would be profitable to listen to these live performances in the context of those on Cembal d’amour CD175 (review) where the programming concept is the same: a Beethoven sonata coupled with a Brahms concerto.

They were recorded in-house, possibly on a cassette (I’m not quite sure of the circumstances) but the recorded level is certainly low and so a volume boost is necessary. There is inevitably sonic constriction too but if you’re an admirer of Mindru Katz that won’t be a significant problem. As my previous reviews indicate, I’m very much an admirer. It’s interesting how he unveils the opening movement of the Moonlight sonata not as a dreamlike legato but in a more intercessory way with sufficient rubati and caesurae to inject an element of stately but never supine nobility; the music is never seamlessly untroubled – it bears a degree of introspective concern about it. By contrast the rococo elements of the central Allegretto emerge the more entertainingly – measured, precise, very slightly satiric. And then comes the intense dynamism of Katz’s finale. It’s not the speed in itself that is so startling here – as the rubato he deploys later in the movement ensures it’s not in any way unusual – so much as the detonative nature of his brusque rhythms, accenting and chordal playing. Others have taken the whole movement more sweepingly but Katz really creates a compelling mini drama. The jewel box calls this a Presto but it’s actually a Presto agitato and it’s the last element that Katz catches so dramatically. The sound quality is rather brittle and restricted but not enough to impede Katz’s magnetic pianism.

On the companion disc Katz essays Brahms’ D minor concerto in 1964 with Josef Krips. Here it’s a familiar associate of Katz’s, namely Mandi Rodan who directs the Jerusalem Symphony in October 1967 in the B flat minor. Again, the expected necessary caveat about sound quality that is dependent on the circumstances of its recording; don’t expect Hi-fi and you won’t be disappointed. Expect a decent, honest in-house affair.

This is a strongly chiseled and well-proportioned performance avoiding excesses of speed at both extremes – neither too abrupt nor too languorous. Occasionally there are almost imperceptible moments of abruptness in the orchestral accompaniment, and Katz drops some notes in the flurry and dramatic tension of the first movement in particular. However, things settle and whilst the piano spectrum itself isn’t centred acoustically – there’s some spread to the sound – Katz reveals the mixture of sensitivity, poetry and sweep that was so very much his own. It’s this combination of rhythmic dynamism and pertinent lightness of articulation that ensures the music isn’t clogged up.

It’s good to know that the Katz archive is still yielding such treasures. I’m sure significant restoration work has been necessary but it’s all in the best cause possible if it continues to keep the Romanian pianist’s name before the public.

Jonathan Woolf

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