Friday, 25 September 2015

CYPRIEN KATSARIS Piano Recital / Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum

Friday (28 August 2015) 

Big shock and wonderful surprise of the week: the Chinese pianist Wang Xiayin had cancelled on doctor's orders at the eleventh hour. To replace her was the French-Cypriot pianist Cyprien Katsaris! Some might even consider this an upgrade! No programme was planned, but one would always rely on Katsaris to provide some impromptu prizes, which he would announce on the spur of the moment.

He opened with his own improvisations on popular 19th and early 20th century melodies, citing that improvisation had already become a lost art among classical pianists. In his 15-minute montage, he brilliantly linked themes from Saint-Saens's Samson et Dalila, Verdi's La Traviata, Wagner's Tannhauser, a waltz of his own device, Tarrega's Memories of the Alhambra (his repeated note technique imitating the guitar uncannily well), Tchaikovsky's Pathetique, Khachaturian's Spartacus, Rachmaninov's 3rd and 2nd Piano Concertos and Liszt's Les Preludes. This was better than any of those Three Tenor medleys!

Late Liszt followed, the little-known Trauervorspiel & Trauermarsch and Katsaris's own version of the obsessive Csardas Obstinee, festooned with his own cadenzas and more repeated-note mayhem.  Katsaris then did a Liszt by transcribing an aria from Liszt's early opera Don Sanche, in the manner of the great master himself. The piece de resistance was surely Katsaris's own arrangement combining both solo and orchestral parts of Liszt's Second Piano Concerto, a blinder of a showpiece which has all the tricks and treats of the ultimate virtuoso. Is Katsaris a reincarnation of the great Hungarian? His generous and oversized spirit suggests the affirmative.

A strange reversal of programming saw the second half open with Haydn's little Sonata in C major, a breezily conceived reading marred by a jarring metallic sound whenever he hit the low C note. Apparently, a small object had fallen into the piano while shifting score stand and lamp, rendering the Haydn an unscripted edition by Henry Cowell or John Cage! 

Schubert's second of Three Piano Pieces (D.946) showed Katsaris an absolute master of cantabile, while Henry Purcell's Suite in D major was a model of restraint and good taste. There was even time for a quiz, winners of which got a Katsaris CD recording as a prize. A prelude of Louis Vierne and a short song by  Friedrich Nietzsche were correctly identified by two young Germans. He closed the programme with Louis Brassin's transcription of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries (Walk├╝renritt), of course with the usual Katsaris modifications.

His sole encore was a nocturne that was so famous that it is hardly ever played in recital, Chopin's ubiquitous Nocturne in E flat major Op.9 No.2. A true rarity indeed, to be heard with Katsaris discrete ornamentation and unfailing beauty of tone.

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