26 September 2007

Ruhrnachrichten, Review by Prof. Werner Kämmerling

Songs Without Words – A Gamble?
Amir Katz Solves This Problem with Bravura

Pianists are inventive. They attempt to patch holes in the literature. This we have experienced in the piano music of the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. And yet it is always risky to concentrate on one composer or only one genre. In Haus Maiwald you could experience just such a gamble last Sunday. On the program: the complete Songs without Words (48, mind you) of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Whenever a pianist interprets a Beethoven sonata cycle, he has at his disposal a stylistic spectrum from Op. 2 to Op. 111 of around 120 years. But with Mendelssohn Bartholdy these bourgeois conventions are limited both in their genesis and in their style to 15 years (1830-1845). A blatantly progressive compositional development from Op. 19 to Op. 102 is nowhere to be found. Is it dangerous, then, if one offers a piano program within such narrow confines? This piano marathon is in any case a tall challenge for the interpreter, possibly even for the audience, too. But not, however, when a connoisseur of the caliber of an Amir Katz solves this problem.

With him, lines are lent luster, the characterizations of the individual pieces appropriately traced. The culture of sound stands in the foreground, for which the wonderfully balanced Steinway concert grand piano supplied by the Maiwald company accommodated the pianist in all areas: balanced treble, warm bass notes, a sonorous baritone section. The corresponding voices in the “Duetto” Op. 38, No. 6 (over top a substantial tangle of accompanying figures), could hardly seem more alive. Just as the hierarchy in the progression of voices seemed to be a particular concern of the pianist. That one could discern a virtuosic surety and clarity in the agitato/presto pieces (Presto, Op. 67, No. 4) with a sweeping eschewal of superfluous pedal appears to be a matter of course for a pianist of this category. The audience showed itself thankful for this gamble. Unfortunately one usually only ever hears these works in small groups in recitals or as encores. A comparison thrusts itself upon us: Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier is also occasionally performed as a complete work. Each of these two works encompasses 48 individual pieces. Coincidence?

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