Peter Katin is an astonishing pianist. When I listen to his playing of both
Schubert and Chopin, composers whose music I am not espoused to and solely
for musical reasons, I have to marvel that his convincing performances are
such that I do listen to these composers and with interest.
Chopin is the better composer of the two I have mentioned because his music
is not overblown but, generally, states its ideas simply and comparatively
tersely ... whereas Schubert can meander and repeat himself at great length.
Katin is undoubtedly the Chopin specialist ... not only in fact but in
performances. There are some gems in this recording particularly the haunting
slow movement of the Piano Sonata No 1, Op 4. To me, this is Chopin
at his best, devoid of those pretty cascades and frilly scales and a 3/4
tempo. It is a piece of genuine beauty and while I do not wish to take issue
with Peter, or with Chopin, who both believe that the Sonata, as a whole,
should never have seen the light of day, I do wish Katin would record it
so that we could assess it played by an expert.
How exquisitely he unfolds the Berceuse, Op 57, another work of
exceptional beauty. It is tender without being sentimental and, believe me,
it takes the greatest of pianists to be able to achieve that. Having seen
his performances of the Bolero, Op 19 many times, I knew what to expect
in another dependable and reliable reading.
The Rondo in C minor, Op 1 brought Chopin great success and should
be better known. But what is most staggering is the Polonaise in G minor
written when Chopin was only seven years of age! While it is trammelled by
'over-correctness' it is a commendable piece as is the Polonaise in B
flat written when he was only eight!
The Variations Brilliantes, Op 12 are played with great panache although
it is not the type of Chopin I prefer. The Souvenir de Paganini does
nothing for me either but its charm will certainly appeal to the majority.
The Three Waltzes, Op 64 are regularly included in Peter Katin's Chopin
recitals and I do admire his performances. He is not a cheap sensational
pianist out for show and self-aggrandisement but a perfectionist always concerned
with true accounts of the composer's written score.
There are some Mazurkas and Nocturnes including a very telling Nocturne
in C# minor, one of those Chopin works that bares his soul to the discerning
listener and helps us, or at least interests us to know more of this complex
and fascinating composer.
As one would expect the performances are exemplary. Chopin should always
be played like this. It shines a light and also gives a clear message even
in the hearts of those unconvinced about his music.