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Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol 6 / Cyprien Katsaris, Yoon Kuk Lee

Release Date: 10/13/2009 
Label:  Piano 21   Catalog #: 31  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Eueng-Gu KimCyprien KatsarisMari Ota
Conductor:  Yoon K. Lee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KATSARIS LIVE IN MOSCOW: THE INTERNATIONAL TCHAIKOVSKY COMPETITION, 1970 Cyprien Katsaris (pn) PIANO 21 029-A (55:17) Live: Moscow 6/3/1970; 1 6/12/1970 2

CHOPIN Etude in b, op. 25/10. 1 LISZT Etudes Read more d’exécution transcendante: Feux follets. 1 RACHMANINOFF Etude-tableau, op. 39/1. 1 TCHAIKOVSKY The Seasons: October. 1 Dumka. 2 BACH Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I: Prelude and Fugue in c?. 1 HAYDN Sonata No. 48 in C. 1 SHOSTAKOVICH Preludes and Fugues: No. 24 in d. 2 RÄÄTS Toccata 2

MOZART Concerto for 2 Pianos in E?. 1 Concerto in F K 242 for 3 Pianos. 1,2 Concerto in F K 242 for 2 Pianos 2 Cyprien Katsaris (pn); Eueng-Gu Kim (pn); 1 Mari Ota (pn); 3 Yoon Kuk Lee, cond; Salzburg CP PIANO 21 031-N (72:54) Live: Salzburg 6/4/1999

First prize in the 1970 Tchaikovsky competition was shared by Vladimir Krainev and John Lill. Further down on the list (in fact, eliminated before the final round) was 19-year-old Cyprien Katsaris. Forty years after the fact, it’s easy to second-guess the judges. After all, despite Lill’s distinguished discography, Katsaris has developed into a more wide-ranging and more interpretively interesting pianist; and despite the fierce concentration of his best work, Krainev’s career has not matched his promise. Still, even Katsaris (who befriended Lill during the competition and who considers Lill’s victory “amply deserved”) was “not satisfied” with his own performances; and listening to this CD (which includes everything he played except the third movement of Boulez’s Second Sonata, which somehow never made it on to the original Soviet tape), it’s easy to see why. The virtuoso elements are sometimes pushed to the limit (or even beyond the limit), while the nod to Bach (required by the competition) is dutiful and dull.

Yet whatever the weaknesses, this is agile and often thrilling playing that—the Bach aside—should keep a strong grip on your attention. The furious, highly accented outer sections of the Chopin, the keen edge of the Liszt (played at a furious pace), the heart-on-the-sleeve “October”: the playing may be slightly unseasoned, but the enthusiasm is contagious, as is the technical facility. Even when Katsaris’s exuberance courts incoherence (as in his aggressive charge through the Rachmaninoff), he carries you along through sheer conviction.

In sum, it’s impossible not to regret that Katsaris didn’t get to the final round, where he would have played the Tchaikovsky First and the Rachmaninoff Third: the Moscow disc suggests that he would have seared the ears of his listeners. (You can hear slightly later performances of those concertos—the Tchaikovsky from 1973, the Rachmaninoff from 1978—on his Russian album, P21 020-A, reviewed in 31:5. They more than fulfill the expectations raised by the competition performances.) But even given his chipper reading of the Haydn—popular with beginning pianists, but hardly one of his more challenging works—this is not a pianist you’d want to hear in Mozart.

Then again, he’s not the pianist we hear in the 1999 Mozart performances, at least not in anything but the most literal sense. The Katsaris of 29 years later is a far richer musician, one who hasn’t lost his youthful delight in music-making, but who sees a lot more variety in the music before him, and who shades his playing accordingly. Writing about earlier installments in this complete run of the Mozart concertos (this is Volume 6), I called it “slightly old-fashioned Mozart that takes advantage of the modern piano’s range of color and articulation” (31:5)—and the same basic approach is heard here. But, as on the earlier releases, the interpretations steer a canny route between preciousness and romanticization: they’re elegant, tactful, and consistently less acidic than many period-instrument accounts, but they never condescend to the music. What’s most striking here—even more than on the solo concertos—is the conversational interplay: I don’t know how this sounded in the hall, but on these sharply focused CDs, the spiffy back and forth among the artists provides consistent pleasure.

Indeed, until now I’ve always found K 242 a dull affair, even in the hands of such experts as the Fleischers (I’ve not heard the recording praised by Mortimer Frank in 33:1, but I found it hard to stay awake when I heard them perform it live in Syracuse). Indeed, many first-rank pianists—for instance, the youthful all-star team of Kocsis, Ranki, and Schiff (see 29:4)—seem utterly bored when they take it on. But the exchanges in these recordings of K 242 by Katsaris and friends are so vital and alert that the music sounds considerably better that it actually is.

Note the plural in recording s . A few issues back (30:5), Jerry Dubins got his knickers in a twist over a recording of the two-piano version of the three-piano concerto, insisting that he “was not aware that [Mozart] had written more than one concerto for two keyboards,” and berating the record company for not clarifying who had made the arrangement. In fact, Jerry was just being ornery, since as he admitted, the program notes did offer clarification. To set the matter straight: Mozart himself both made and performed the two-piano compression of the three-piano K 242. The two-piano version has been played and recorded numerous times by, among others, Badura-Skoda and Gianoli, Perahia and Lupu, and the Fleischers. What’s unusual here is that Katsaris gives us both redactions—the first time, in my experience, that they’ve shared a single disc. In lesser hands, this would be too much of a not-very-good thing, especially since the arrangement is not especially adventurous (the original third-piano part was fairly rudimentary). But I doubt anyone listening will regret the repetition. The orchestral playing is tight and committed, and as I’ve said, the sound is exceptional. An unalloyed delight.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for 3 Pianos in F major, K 242 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Eueng-Gu Kim (Piano), Cyprien Katsaris (Piano), Mari Ota (Piano)
Conductor:  Yoon K. Lee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776; Salzburg, Austria 
Concerto for 3 Pianos in F major, K 242 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Cyprien Katsaris (Piano), Eueng-Gu Kim (Piano)
Conductor:  Yoon K. Lee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776; Salzburg, Austria 
Concerto for 2 Pianos in E flat major, K 365 (316a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Cyprien Katsaris (Piano), Eueng-Gu Kim (Piano)
Conductor:  Yoon K. Lee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 

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