25 September 2010

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

Frédéric Chopin: Die Nocturnes

Nocturnes are “night pieces” – which already says something about their character. These were initially compositions of a subdued mood, bearing a hint of sentimentality. With the English composer John Field, the originator of this romantic genre, that was still in fact the case.

His contemporary Frédéric Chopin, however, whom John Field greatly admired, made much more than just sentimental salon pieces for this form of dim evening music out of “his” nocturnes. In Chopin’s Nocturnes, nothing is covered up; states of mind are, on the contrary, disclosed. Chopin’s Nocturnes are evening or nighttime musical narratives, character pieces that sometimes bear sedate witness to quiet moments, sometimes with dramatic power relate the events of the past day.

Musical Diary Entries

Chopin consistently composed nocturnes throughout his life. One can appreciate them as spontaneously and idly jotted personal notes or diary entries. Robert Schumann wrote of Chopin’s Nocturnes op. 55: “One can in no way speak in terms of a distinctive form here, but rather only of the general designation of a small, elegiac or indeed gentle piece of music, for this genre is fixed in neither a rhythmic nor harmonic respect, but is rather left up to the taste of the originator”. When the taste of the originator then encounters a tasteful interpreter, as is here the case with pianist Amir Katz, then good fortune and Chopin coincide perfectly.

Hymns of the Night

On his new double CD, Amir Katz, born in Israel in 1973, plays the 19 nocturnes authorised by Chopin during the his lifetime as well as the two posthumously published nocturnes: renditions full of flowing movement and internal emotion. Sensitive interpretations, sometimes also intimations. Hymns to the night putting fantasy images before the listener’s inner eye that are at the same time full of clear contours. After his striking CD with Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words”, Mr. Katz shows here once again his remarkable gift for fathoming the romantic repertoire in its emotional depth, but also in its underlying, introverted dramatic art.

Storyteller at the Piano

Chopin once said the left hand is the conductor; it plays in strict rhythm. The right hand plays in unforced rhythm; it is responsible for bringing out the true musical expression, like an orator. Amir Katz succeeds optimally in this. He knows the art of recounting a tale on the piano – and he does so with great persuasiveness and full of poetry.

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