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Julius Katchen

Biography

Born: August 15, 1926; Long Beach, NJ   Died: May 29, 1969; Paris, France  
A child prodigy of startling promise, Julius Katchen matured into a solo and chamber music pianist of broad interests and probing artistry. His death from cancer at age 42 denied a discerning public the presence of a pianist especially well-equipped to penetrate to the center-most meanings of those works he favored.

Born to a musical family, Katchen was instructed in the musical arts from his earliest years. His grandmother, formerly a
Read more faculty member at the Warsaw Conservatory, was his first piano instructor, while his grandfather taught him theory (his mother, a pianist, had trained at the Fontainebleau School of Music and had made concert appearances in both Europe and America). In 1937, Katchen presented himself to Eugene Ormandy and requested that he be permitted to play for him. Ormandy was sufficiently impressed to engage the lad for an appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The October 21, 1937, concert found Katchen performing Mozart's Concerto in D minor to high praise. Following this glowing reception, the 11-year-old pianist was invited to perform at a pension fund concert with the New York Philharmonic the following month. Critic Lawrence Gilman was moved to recall the debut of Josef Hofmann as a prodigy a half century before. "His fingers are fleet, his conceptions clear and intelligent," wrote Gilman of Katchen. "He has a musicianly feeling for the contour and flow and rhythm of a phrase and a sense of what is meant by Mozartean style." A New York recital a year later brought even more enthusiastic praise for the youth's musical understanding.

Before his career advanced, however, Katchen's parents chose to place a hold on further public appearances and enroll him instead at Haverford College, where he majored in philosophy and English literature. His break, Katchen often insisted, developed in him the intellectual curiosity that fed his interest in the more mentally challenging works in the repertory.

A fellowship extended by the French government permitted Katchen to travel to Paris in 1946; that cosmopolitan city became his home for the remainder of his life and he lost no time in making himself a formidable presence there and in the rest of Europe, respected for his commanding interpretive thoughtfulness and virtuoso technique. He undertook several highly successful tours of the Continent, winning acclaim in each center he visited. Decca Records signed him to an exclusive contract and he began recording a bracing cross-section of the repertory with Brahms always at the core. He presented concert performances of Brahms' complete solo piano works in New York, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Berlin and was heard with major orchestras in the two piano concertos. In addition to solo appearances, Katchen often took part in chamber music performances, again concentrating on Brahms, but certainly not neglecting other aspects of an extensive personal repertory. Ned Rorem and Benjamin Britten were just two contemporary composers to benefit from Katchen's advocacy. To say, as some have, that Katchen never achieved the success in America that was his in Europe fails to account for the far greater portion of his mature years that were spent on the Continent where other cultural stimulations prompted his most involved and productive work. Katchen was also acutely aware of the need to extend the exposure of classical music well beyond its existing ranks -- on December 11, 1968, he was one of! a large group of musicians, all but one of them from the rock and blues fields, to perform as part of the Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus, and a segment that was introduced by Brian Jones, no less; alas, due to production and post-production problems, no one got to see any part of Katchen's performance until over three decades later; the pianist himself, terminally ill with cancer, didn't live another six months after this extraordinary event. His tragic death was keenly felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Read less
Browse 26-41 of 41 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    Essential Piano - The Ultimate Piano Collection
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000397202 Release Date: 02/14/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  András Schiff,  Zoltán Kocsis,  Radu Lupu  ... 
    Conductor:  Edo De Waart,  Sir Colin Davis,  Lorin Maazel,  Vladimir Ashkenazy
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 27.
    Heritage - Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue, Etc / Katchen, Et Al
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4756159 Release Date: 07/01/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Annuncio Paolo Mantovani
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mantovani & His Orchestra
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  • 28.
    The Art Of Julius Katchen Vol 4 - Liszt, Grieg, Etc/ Argenta
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 460831 Release Date: 04/20/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Liszt,  Edvard Grieg,  Modest Mussorgsky,  Mily Balakirev
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Ataulfo Argenta,  István Kertész
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 29.
    The Art Of Julius Katchen - Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1, 2, 3 & 5
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 460822 Release Date: 01/12/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Piero Gamba
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 30.
    The Art Of Julius Katchen Vol 2 - Beethoven, Mozart / Maag
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 460825 Release Date: 01/12/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Piero Gamba,  Peter Maag,  Karl Münchinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  New Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 31.
    The Art Of Julius Katchen Vol 3 - Brahms, Schumann / Monteux
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 460828 Release Date: 01/12/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux,  István Kertész,  János Ferencsik
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 32.
    Prokofiev, Bartok / Katchen, Ansermet, Suisse Romande
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1300 Release Date: 07/08/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Sergei Prokofiev
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra
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  • 33.
    The #1 Piano Album
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 472589 Release Date: 11/12/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich,  George Gershwin,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Olli Mustonen,  Werner Haas,  Martha Argerich,  Zoltán Kocsis  ... 
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  • 34.
    Liszt: Concertos For Piano & Orchestra Nos 1 & 2; Hungarian Rhapsody No 12
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 470257 Release Date: 12/17/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Liszt
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Piero Gamba,  Ataulfo Argenta
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 35.
    Prokofiev: Peter And The Wolf; Saint-saens: Carnival Of The Animals
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 467470 Release Date: 04/27/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Camille Saint-Saëns
    Performer:  Gary Graffman,  Kenneth Heath,  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Skitch Henderson
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  • 36.
    Brahms: Violin Sonatas / Josef Suk, Julius Katchen
    Label: London/Decca Legends   Catalog: 466393 Release Date: 02/06/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Julius Katchen,  Josef Suk
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  • 37.
    Brahms: Works For Solo Piano / Julius Katchen
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 455247 Release Date: 11/11/1997   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Julius Katchen,  Jean-Pierre Marty
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  • 38.
    Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 2 / Katchen
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 448604 Release Date: 07/15/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Ernö von Dohnányi
    Performer:  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti,  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 39.
    Children's Favorites - The Carnival Of The Animals
    Label: London/Decca Weekend Classics   Catalog: 425505 Release Date: 07/31/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Gioachino Rossini,  Aaron Copland,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Varda Nishry,  Gary Graffman,  Julius Katchen,  Kenneth Heath
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Piero Gamba,  Skitch Henderson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 40.
    Gershwin Weekend
    Label: London/Decca Weekend Classics   Catalog: 436570 Release Date: 01/18/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Gershwin
    Performer:  Julius Katchen,  Leontyne Price
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Annuncio Paolo Mantovani,  Lorin Maazel,  István Kertész
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  Mantovani & His Orchestra,  Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $8.99
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  • 41.
    Brahms: Piano Trios 1 & 2 / Katchen, Suk, Starker
    Label: London/Decca Chamber Mus Series   Catalog: 4211522 Release Date: 06/20/1988   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  János Starker,  Josef Suk,  Julius Katchen
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