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Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1; Chopin: Ballade No 3; Liszt / Katchen

Brahms / Chopin / Bbc Sym Orch / Kempe
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Ica Classics   Catalog #: 5048  
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsFrédéric ChopinFranz LisztRobert Schumann,   ... 
Performer:  Julius Katchen
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 1. CHOPIN Ballade No. 3 2. LISZT Mephisto Waltz 2. SCHUMANN Waldszenen: Vogel als Prophet 3. ALBÉNIZ Iberia: Triana 3 & Read more class="BULLET12"> • Julius Katchen (pn); Rudolf Kempe, cond; BBC SO ICA 5048 (76:10) Live: London 1 10/11/1967; 2 10/4/1965; 3 9/29/1958

& Katchen interview with John Amis

This valuable release nicely complements two existing live Katchen accounts of the Brahms concerto, adding a late one, from near the end of his tragically short life, to an early one with Ernest Bour at Southwest German Radio in 1951 (so-so sound on Urania), and a mid-career one with Franz Konwitschny at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1960 (excellent sound on Weitblick).

The 1967 performance is vintage Katchen in its bigness of conception, mercurial reflexes, and expressive fullness and generosity, with that distinctive metallic glint to his piano tone. His interpretation didn’t change very much over the years; all the live performances, like the Decca recording with Monteux and the LSO, share the imperious shaping of the long line in the first solo entry, the eagle-like swooping down on the lyrical second theme, and the amazing reflexes in the development, turning on a dime from high-speed double octaves to sparkling leggiero arpeggios. Equally distinctive are the rich bronzed sculpting of the contrapuntal lines in the Adagio, and the passionate urgency of the second theme (B Minor–F?-Minor, bars 37 ff.). After a rather rough-and-tumble start (much more poised in Leipzig seven years earlier), the finale quickly finds its groove, and the central episode (B?-Major–Minor) has great finesse and delicacy. The final stages (from the recapitulation of the second theme, Rehearsal G ff.) summon an irrepressible mounting excitement, culminating in a final cadenza of thrilling abandon. Kempe’s conducting is a major plus, in its typical distinctive grace, lightness of touch (always airborne, even in the heaviest textures), and rich subtlety of shading, inspiring a fine-tuned response from the BBC orchestra.

The fillers are live radio recordings made in the BBC’s studios without an audience. They are consistently riveting, from the massive yet sharply chiseled Chopin ballade to an astonishing no-holds-barred assault on the Mephisto Waltz —indeed verging on reckless, considering which his level of accuracy is phenomenally impressive. A wonderfully elastic, long-breathed Vogel als Prophet provides a welcome respite before Triana, which he fairly burns through, taking no prisoners—perhaps a little short on local color, but terrifically exciting.

In the bonus interview (BBC, December 1967), the man comes over very much like his pianistic persona: fast-paced, energetic, and formidably articulate, in cultured Anglo-American tones long vanished. No audible sign at this stage of any debilitation from the cancer that was to end his life in little more than a year; indeed the BBC’s John Amis has difficulty getting a word in edgeways. Katchen ranges far and wide on Mozart playing and conductors (interestingly, from the perspective of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic listener, rather than that of the professional pianist), as well as reminiscences of his first encounter, as a teenager, with the music of Brahms.

The sound is consistently good for its time and provenance, and ICA’s transfers and production values are of a high standard. This marvelous new label (successor to the late lamented BBC Legends) is a class act, and I wish it a long life. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1858; Germany 
Ballade for Piano no 3 in A flat major, B 136/Op. 47 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1841; Paris, France 
Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke, S 514 "Mephisto Waltz no 1" by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859-1860; Weimar, Germany 
Waldszenen, Op. 82: no 7, Vogel als Prophet by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848-1849; Germany 
Suite Iberia, Book 2: no 3, Triana by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; France 

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