3 June 2013

Hamburger Abendblatt, Review by Ilja Stephan

Beethoven for connoisseurs and aficionados
The Israeli pianist wins over the Laeiszhalle’s small recital hall

Hamburg. Pianist Amir Katz presented himself at his guest appearance Saturday in the Laeiszhalle’s small recital hall as an artist as clever as he is as subtle and modest. Katz offered up Beethoven’s sonatas of the years 1814 to 1818 on the program and, thanks to the creative power of the Israeli pianist demonstrated in the chronological sequence of sonatas 27, 28 and 29, Beethoven’s developmental path toward contrapuntal notation and the monumental Fugue at the end of Opus 106 was palpable.

In this manner, Katz waited until the finale of Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major (Opus 101) before allowing a triple forte and setting the scene for the grand prelude to the Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major (Opus 106) in the second half with this cleverly placed dynamic peak. Katz’s actual domain seems to lie in the lyrical, though; the second movement of Opus 90, given to be presented “very singably,” was in any case a gem of exquisite articulation and delicate rubati.

Katz also found a compelling pace and a harmonious tone for the countless other characters in Beethoven’s Sonata Cosmos. He pounced into the tumult of notes in the “Hammerklavier” with a brisk pace and spirited grasp. In the somewhat constrained Scherzo, one saw his respect for this rare pinnacle of piano literature. Compared with the grotesquely slowed version with which Grigory Sokolov regaled the audience a few weeks ago in the large hall of the Laeiszhalle, the interpretation by the (still) little-known Israeli stood out as considerably more convincing.

Exaggeration or sensationalism are obviously not Katz’s domain, then; nuanced transitions and overtones all the more. Here, one plays for connoisseurs and aficionados. Actually, one understood all the essentials about this artist upon seeing the slight smile that slid across Katz’s his face as he treated himself and his listeners to Paganini/Liszt’s insanely virtuoso encore classic etude “La Campanella.” The audience, not out great numbers, showed him their gratitude by repeatedly applauding their way from one gem to another as further encores.

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