29 October 2009

Rheinische Post, Review by Martin Schlupp

Solingen: Pianist Amir Katz Gloriously Unpretentious

Link: www.rp-online.de

Solingen (Rhineland-Palatinate). Self-stylization does not appear foreign to Amir Katz. Born in Israel in 1973, the pianist made his impression at the second museum concert of the season not by posing, but by dint of an honest illumination of music. That was particularly true of the eighteen Songs without Words by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy to which Katz devoted significant time. All Songs without Words are extremely different. One thing unites them, however: the cantabile element, a mostly simple melody. One recalls, for example, the well-known Allegro leggiero from Opus 67. When Katz played this song, it was not romantically overcharged, but concentrated upon melodic flow without seeming fleeting. Across the staccato of the strongly accentuated sixteenth-note movements, he draped the rejoicing theme with fine ease. Very simple, very clean, very elegant. And yet in the final third the pianist sometimes set a surprisingly expeditious tempo without harming the melody, rhythm, or mood of the song. On the contrary, this particular restlessness of Katz underscored to what degree one can understand the romantic Mendelssohn Bartholdy without accompanying pathos. Amir Katz furnished even the interpretation of the fifth and sixth songs from Opus 38 by Mendelssohn Bartholdy with particular verve. From the songs he drew an internal momentum, a natural-seeming urgency that made this piece incredibly captivating. And whoever might reproach Katz’s unemotional rendering with the charge that he possess no tact would find himself contradicted by the Andante sostenuto from Opus 19, also commonly known as the “Venetian Gondola Song.” With extreme softness Katz created a sadness that could only have sprung from honest sentiment for the work.

For Katz’s interpretations of Beethoven’s C-sharp minor sonata, Opus 27, No. 2 (“Moonlight Sonata”), and Schumann’s Sonata in G minor, Opus 22, the attribute “outstanding” must be bestowed upon him too. Free of hollow pathos, he played the mystic Adagio sostenuto of the “Moonlight Sonata,” varying tempi and volume in the Allegretto and Presto agitato with ease. And finally he worked his way effortlessly through the unbelievable tonal density of the first movement of Schumann’s G-minor sonata with a drama that persisted from the first to the last bars. The power and speed of the Schumann sonata was, however, only a taste of what was to come with the virtuoso Katz who ended the concert with a thundering rendition of Franz Liszt’s Réminscences du Don Juan de Mozart – Grande Fantaisie pour piano, R. 228, S. 418. His incredible interpretive ability to endow pieces with only sparing effects and instead to trace the profundity of their being was surprising, superior, and beyond successful. Amir Katz was glorious – and gloriously unpretentious.

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