14 October 2008

Hellweger Anzeiger Unna, Review by Rainer Ehmanns

“You have to do it with love”
Amir Katz Plays Demanding First Master Concert in the Stadthalle

Unna. “We should be thanking you,” Bettina Großebüter greeted the audience on the occasion of the new season of master concerts at the Musikverein. “You have increased the number of subscribers by almost a fifth. Keep bringing your good friends and acquaintances along and enjoy the evening!”

An almost superfluous wish as Amir Katz brought along a cleverly devised program to the Stadthalle on Sunday evening, beginning with twelve ‘Songs Without Words,’ Op. 38 and Op. 53, by Mendelssohn Bartholdy. In them he combines songful elements with character-heavy and genre-specific components into careful cycles of sophisticated design. Katz feels himself indebted to this design, for he avoids every nuance or gesture that could slip into kitsch – on the contrary; unpretentious endings, an elegant play with subtle accents, unobtrusive arpeggios, and beautifully shaped left-hand phrases, especially in Op. 38, No. 6, up to the unsettling minor-second trills in Op. 53, No. 6, prove that Katz can lend romantic lyricism thrilling hues.

Beethoven’s “Waldstein Sonata” is better suited than the originally planned “Pathétique.” It makes audible what romantic potential lies not only in the phenomenally extensive development section of the first movement, whose threatening thundercloud atmosphere before the recapitulation entrances the listeners just as much as the infinite tension of the Adagio with its pallid opening intervals, before the initially far-removed rondo theme becomes more and more present and Beethoven rounds off the work in further development with motives from the first movement, too.

The second group of twelve Songs, Op. 62 and 67, differs distinctly from those heard in the first part: character pieces all, dramatically conceived – and Katz imparts life to them, now with an agitated accompaniment (Op. 62, No. 5), now with resonant disquiet (Op. 67, No. 4), all the way to the frothily dappled waltz (Op. 67, No. 6). If Schubert’s ‘Wanderer Fantasy’ did not cap off the compositional arc of the evening! Without virtuosic attitudes but all the more brilliantly, Katz realizes connections in his playing which, in hindsight, made the musical “kinship” of the three composers virtually come alive. Asked how he technically – and physically – was able to master such a demanding program, Amir Katz replies: “One must do it with love.” That the breathlessly listening audience certainly felt.

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