Piano Rarities Vol 1

Katsaris gets physical with this enchanting disc of transcriptions

Author: 
Jeremy Nicholas

Piano Rarities Vol 1

  • Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani
  • Liederkreis, No. 5, Mondnacht
  • An Silvia
  • Wesendonck Lieder, Der Engel
  • (8) Lieder aus Letzte Blätter, No. 1, Zueignung (orch 1940)
  • Symphony No. 5, Adagietto
  • Damunt de tu, només les flors
  • Recuerdos de la Alhambra
  • Choro da saudade
  • Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe
  • (3) Songs, Nell (wds. L de Lisle: 1878)
  • Coppélia, Valse lente
  • Vocalise
  • Bronze Horseman, Valse

There are those pianists who restrict themselves to the compositions of a small number of composers and make very good careers in their endless search for new things to say about them; and there are those who never tire of dipping into the bottomless treasure chest of the piano repertoire in an endless search for something new. Such an omnivore is Cyprien Katsaris. All his recordings, this one not the least among them, convey a feeling of sheer delight: in the piano as a means of expression and in his own considerable skills.

Piano transcription fanciers will fall over themselves for this collection, not merely for the effortless bravura and tonal control of the playing (Katsaris is in the Wild/Volodos/Cziffra league) but because they will not have heard many of the titles. No fewer than ten are by the Polish-born (1946) Karol A Penson whose profession, amazingly, is not music but science: he is Professor of Physics at the University of Paris, a veritable Borodin de nos jours. These include luminous arrangements of Schumann’s “Mondnacht” and Richard Strauss’s “Zueignung” as well as a finger-busting repeated-note transcription of Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, and (another guitar-to-piano work) Barrios Mangoré’s enchanting Chôro da saudade arranged for the left hand alone.

The recording is a tad on the spacious side – probably a good option in order to capture the huge sonority produced in items like the opening Praeludium and Allegro (Kreisler-Vaneyev) or the artfully floated tone in Fiorentino’s transcription of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise which is followed by the delirious acrobatics of the Waltz from Glière’s The Bronze Horseman. Now there’s an obscurity!

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