Mindru Katz Plays
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major Op.73 Emperor (1809) [38:35]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Prelude in E flat minor Op.34 (1932-33) [2:24]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Suite for Piano No. 2 in D major Op. 10 (1901) [24:10]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise in A flat major Op.53 Heroic [6:33]
Mindru Katz (piano)
Hallé Orchestra/John Barbirolli
rec. 1958-59
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 148 [71:51]

At the end of some gruelling sessions for Nixa, in which he had essayed concertos by Prokofiev and Khachaturian, Mindru Katz quietly began playing a Prelude and Fugue from Book II of the Well Tempered Clavier. The conductor, Adrian Boult, shushed the departing players and together they listened as Katz moved quietly and nobly, seemingly oblivious, to the end of the Fugue. Remembering the event afterwards, Boult recalled that ‘I had no idea he had that kind of thing in him’.

Indeed he did. Katz has been typecast as a virtuoso concerto performer, as I have noted before in my reviews of his discs put out by Cembal d’amour. He was far from that, or – to put it differently – he commanded a wide repertoire, one that embraced flourish but also reflection and intimacy, all predicated on a cast-iron technique and a warm, rounded pearl-toned sense of projection.

Mindru Katz enjoyed some successful collaborations on disc with at least two eminent British Knights of the Realm. Boult was one and Barbirolli was another. It’s the latter who lends his support in this recording of the Emperor Concerto made in 1958. It’s been transferred before, by Dutton [CDSJB 1013]. The recording is balanced somewhat in favour of the piano as was too often customary – it still is in some places – but this doesn’t seriously impede listening. The wind lines and their counter-themes, and the exchanges between them and the piano are almost always audible. There is refinement as well as fire in Katz’s playing. As one would expect of this conductor, Barbirolli ensures that there is considerable rapport and ensemble surety, and also that there is a strong wash of string tone. There is a measured legato freshness to Katz’s playing of the central movement. Firm, even, rounded trills, subtle rubati and excellent left hand harmonic pointing are components of the playing that ensure admiration. In the finale too Barbirolli ensures a degree of élan and Katz plays with a splendid range of colour, mixing the adamantine and the filigree to advantage.

The rest of the programme is contemporaneous with the Beethoven recording. There is an introspective, brooding and powerful Shostakovich Prelude in E flat minor and an elegant, unaffected, and non-showy Chopin Polonaise in A flat major. In between comes an impressive traversal of Enescu’s Suite for Piano No. 2 in D major. Katz deals justly with the incipient grandeur of the Toccata; so too in the diaphanous warmth and carillon elements (very romantic) of the Sarabande. The wistful Debussian heritage is apparent in the Pavane whilst the vitality of the music, as full of energy in its way as John Foulds’ April-England, becomes overwhelmingly audible in the ebullient Bourée finale.

This mixed programme usefully documents Katz’s highly persuasive musicianship on the grandest and most intimate of scales. The transfers are very sympathetic, the whole enterprise worthy of Katz’s elevated musicianship.

Jonathan Woolf

Usefully documents Katz’s highly persuasive musicianship on the grandest and most intimate of scales.