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Georgi CATOIRE (1861-1926)
Piano Concerto in A-flat major Op 21 (1909) [29:55]
Piano Quintet in G minor Op 28 (1914) [22:15]
Piano Quartet in A minor Op 31 (1916) [26:05]
Oliver Triendl (piano), Vogler Quartet, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Roland Kluttig
Rec. December 2019 at Haus des Runfunks, Berlin (concerto), May 2020 at Deutschland-funk, Kammermusiksaal, Kóln (chamber works)
CAPRICCIO C5403 [78:21]

Georgi Catoire was Russian but of French background. He came from a business family but was encouraged to compose by Tchaikovsky and later studied under Liadov. He remained in Russia after the revolution and became a professor of composition in Moscow, but more or less ceased to compose. His output was small: there are thirty six opus numbers and these are mostly piano music and songs. There are few large-scale works: apart from this concerto there is an earlier symphony and just one or two other works. After his death he was neglected, but a few years ago a revival began, in which Marc-André Hamelin’s 1999 recording of some of his piano music was influential. His piano writing is idiomatic and elaborate, in the manner of Russian composers of the time, and his harmony ranges from the late romantic to the impressionist with some influence of Scriabin, whose earlier works he admired.

The Piano Concerto is in the usual three movements, but the first movement is not in sonata-form but is a theme with six variations. I thought immediately of Franck’s Symphonic Variations and this movement is somewhat similar, though to me it lacks Franck’s clear sense of direction. The slow movement is lyrical and Scriabinesque and the finale is lively though it rather peters out at the end. Still, it is an attractive work.

The Piano Quintet is a substantial work and again I hear Franck in the background, as his piano quintet was such a prominent example of the genre. The first movement is robust and full-blooded, but the slow movement is more delicate, with a memorable falling figure and a lighter texture which reminds me more of Chausson. The finale sparkles and shimmers.

The Piano Quartet, Catoire’s last large-scale composition, again brings more transparent textures and I thought not so much of Chausson’s Piano Quartet as of Ravel’s Piano Trio. The rhythms are complicated and the harmony subtle.

Catoire was perhaps not a first-rate composer, and I am not sure that he ever achieved a stable idiom, but his works are attractive and well worth hearing. These performances certainly make an excellent case for them: the pianist Oliver Triendl has no problems with the often demanding piano writing. In the concerto Roland Kluttig and his radio orchestra provide good support and in the two chamber works the Vogler Quartet make excellent partners and play with a will. No complaints about the recording, though different teams and venues were used for the concerto from the chamber works. The disc is handsomely presented with a cover sleeve and altogether this is a quality production.

Stephen Barber



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