25 July 2009

CD Tip of the Week from Bayern 4 Classical Radio Review by Jürgen Seeger

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy:
Songs Without Words

All told they were eight volumes with 56 compositions of overpowering beauty. Mendelssohn himself gave them the designation ‘Songs Without Words.’ Only a few bear their own title, for example the “Spring Song” from Volume No. 5, which Mendelssohn dedicated to Clara Schumann. The famous virtuoso added it to her encore repertoire and on many evenings had to repeat it several times in a row. No wonder that Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was pushed to write more of these classical hits. Contemplative miniatures full of meditative ardency stand beside dance-like, buoyant movements or elegiac character pieces: a variety of expression that demands of every interpreter the highest sensitivity and sense of illumination and shading.

Born in Israel in 1973, the pianist Amir Katz has recorded 48 of the Songs without Words for his new double CD – virtuosic and yet never boastful, emotional and yet never sentimental. The recordings were made in July 2008 in the Munich Musikhochschule. He had the choice between two Steinway concert grand pianos, Amir Katz explains in the CD booklet, “a new Steinway and a somewhat older one. I decided on the newer one, which sounded ‘fresh’ and had lots of personality. That didn’t make the work easy, but after I had gotten to know it exactly, it gave me more possibilities to exhaust the potential of the cantabile in Mendelssohn.” A good decision, because the tonal register of the instrument is brilliant and excellently suits the clarity and transparency of Amir Katz’s interpretation which is wholly free of romantic obfuscation. The pianist makes the piano sing, brightly and extremely sensitively adjusted to the character of each individual ‘Song.’ A successful homage on the 200th birthday of the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

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