Classical Reissue Reviews

Mindru Katz plays SCHUMANN = Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 – Mindru Katz, piano – Cembal d’amour

Piano virtuoso Mindru Katz reveals the poetic vigor and intimate candor of his Schumann in recital from 1974.

Published on March 9, 2011

Mindru Katz plays SCHUMANN = Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 – Mindru Katz, piano – Cembal d’amour

Mindru Katz plays SCHUMANN = Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 – Mindru Katz, piano - Cembal d’amour CD 157, 56:42 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

Mindru Katz (1925-1978) performs the music of Schumann live in concert from Jerusalem, Israel in 1974. Always persuasive in Romantic repertory, Katz plays the Scenes from Childhood with studied affection, adding lyrical touches of diminuendo and schwung when occasion requires. He makes the Curious Story truly a “curio.” Easy grace and silken runs define Blindman’s Bluff. The Pleading Child anticipates The Poet Speaks in its falling figures. Rachmaninov would admire Katz builds the sequences to the “point.” The Katz ability to “make tone” resounds in Glueckes genug, Contented enough, the bass line rife with Schumann’s singing harmony.  Important Event strides between percussive march and fanciful maerchen, fairy-tale. The pregnant pauses in Traumerai easily compare to or surpass the Horowitz emblematic approach. Alternately, Eusebius’ innigkeit and Florestan’s enthusiasm suffuse By the Fireside and Knight of the Rocking Horse. Graduated dynamics create a taut poetic line in Fast zu Ernst, the kind of “European” reading we associate with Erno von Dohnanyi. A gentle three-hand effect realizes Frightening, almost an etude as Katz conceives it. The Child Falling Asleep does become a study in layered nuances, Schumann’s looking ahead to Debussy. The tolling bells of sleep melt into The Poet Speaks, a dream-within-a-dream poignantly rendered, assurance that “a child shall lead them.”

The 1836 Schumann Fantasie remains his greatest work in a large form, a constant challenge and source of aesthetic pleasure to its acolytes. Rife with passionate gestures and sighs of longing, the work simultaneously reflects Schumann’s soul-sickness at having been separated from Clara Wieck–the descending right hand octaves–and his intellectual devotion to the music of Beethoven.  By having quoted a theme from Beethoven’s song-cycle “To the Distant Beloved,” Schumann integrated these impulses – adding to the personal mix a highly idiosyncratic approach to sonata-form, incorporating in the first movement a ballade structure both declamatory and intricately contrapuntal.

Katz invests a singular drive into the first movement, agitated and polished at once.  Katz captures the spirit of heroic improvisation–with its mad surges of energy and volcanic obsession–without sacrificing the intimate lyrical  restraint that often pulls away from the frenetic throng of notes. Katz hurtles into the aggressive march of movement two with bold strokes, the dotted notes and askew metrics repeated until we succumb to their unrelenting momentum. A potent coda, with hands skipping in opposite directions, leaves us dazzled and drained by Katz’s intensity. Thus having vanquished us, Katz restores our faith in the power of love with the plastic nocturne Schumann offers in the spirit of late Beethoven. Katz’s left hand provides a lesson in itself in bass chord foundation and maintaining poise in a chromatic line. A “poetic inevitability” dominates all the pages after the repeat of the slow crescendo to those tones that appeal “to those who secretly listen,” as Schlegel put it. Eusebius rules here, and Katz gives him full poetic license, an especially inspired rendering, to say the least.

–Gary Lemco




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