The pianist Peter Katin has died

Gramophone Mon 23rd March 2015

Born November 14, 1930; died March 19, 2015

Peter Katin (1930-2015)

The pianist Peter Katin has died: he was 84. A much-admired musician, Katin’s career was characterised by long periods of neglect, followed by periods of great productivity. Born in London to an immigrant Orthodox Jewish father from Lithuania and an English mother, Katin showed early musical promise and attended the Royal Academy of Music from the age of 12; he was also head chorister at Westminster Abbey. He made his Wigmore Hall debut aged 18 and was soon a sought-after soloist and chamber music-partner. He made his debut at the Proms in 1953, a personal triumph. As Katin said in an interview with Gramophone in October 1987, I remember early in my career playing Rachmaninov's Third Concerto at the Proms, and it brought the house down; since then I've hardly ever been asked to play anything else. Bang went Beethoven, Mozart, chamber music … I put up with this for a long time, and then I took a stand and said I wasn't going to play these things again. That gave me time to study other composers properly and it's paid off.’ 

During the late 1950s Katin made a number of recordings for Decca and Westminster including concertante works by Mendelssohn, a couple of Liszt recitals, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Concert Fantasia, Rachmaninov’s First and Second Piano Concertos and Litolff’s Concerto Symphonique (all now available from Pristine Classical in superb remasterings). He continued to explore the romantic piano repertoire and was a frequent fixture at the Proms (he had made 25 appearances by the 1970s). He also appeared as the musical partner of the violinist Alfredo Campoli (in the 1950s) and the soprano Victoria de los Angeles (in the 1970s).

Katin taught at the University of Western Ontario in Canada for a while before returning to the UK in 1984. The major engagements had dried up but Katin persevered, performing at music clubs and teaching, as well as making a number of self-funded recordings. In 1987 he embarked on a series of CDs for Olympia and drew complimentary reviews: Joan Chissell wrote of Katin’s Chopin B minor Piano Sonata that ‘at the piano he nevertheless keeps emotion under strict control in a performance of exemplary clarity and rhythmic control’ and James Methuen-Campbell wrote (of a Liszt recital) that ‘one cannot question Peter Katin's depth as a Liszt-player. In the more quiet and thoughtful pieces recorded here he is very much in his element. From the first few notes of the opening Consolation I was enchanted by the expressive air of reflection, which is so entirely in tune with the title of the pieces. His pure, self-effacing and sincere approach ensures that the familiar Third Consolation, in D flat, is free from that saccharine pallor in which it is so often cloaked.’

Katin retired from performance in 2004.

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