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Julius Katchen

8.99 € 6.75 €

This CD is self-commendable for the record collector and Katchen admirer. His German radio performances in this recording from 1960-1962 centered around European composers: Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann. Katchen had an interesting combination of Russian heritage, an inexhaustible fund of energy both physical and mental, and a technique that overcame challenges with some apparent ease. This combination led him to make spectacularly exciting recording. None of these radio performances have been published before.


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JULIUS KATCHEN plays Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann

1. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition [28:35]
2. BALAKIREV: Islamey, Oriental Fantasy, Op.18 [07:49]

Recorded ∙ 13 January 1960 ∙ Frankfurt ∙ Raum 3/C ∙ Hessischer Rundfunk ∙ Radio Studio Recording

3-5. MOZART: Piano Sonata in D Major, K.284 [17:34]
6. BEETHOVEN: 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor, WoO 80 [10:06]
7. SCHUMANN: Toccata in C Major, Op.7 [06:36]

Recorded ∙ 20 September 1962 ∙ Frankfurt ∙ Raum 3/C ∙ Hessischer Rundfunk ∙ Radio Studio Recording

Additional Information

Article number: MC 1003
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050033
Total time: 70:43 min

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki & Willy Pragher
With special thanks to Peter Ziegler
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2014 Meloclassic

Julius Katchen was born in Long Branch Aug. 15, 1926, into a family of musicians. His grandmother, Rosalie Svet, formerly a faculty member at the Warsaw Conservatory, was a concert pianist and gave him his first piano lessons when he was five years old. His grandfather, Mandell Svet, was a teacher of violin and composition in Newark for many years and had been a professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He taught Katchen theory. His mother Lucille was once a concert pianist, had trained at the Fontainebleau School of Music and had made concert appearances in both Europe and America. His father Ira J. Katchen was a lawyer and amateur violinist. From his book The Art of The Piano (1995), David Dubal wrote that “Katchen studied under David Saperton(1889~1970), an American pupil of Ferruccio Busoni(1886~1924). And his alumni were the pianists like Abbey Simon, Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky and Sidney Foster.” In 1937, when he was 11, he made his debut in a national radio broadcast and then was soloist in Mozart’s D Minor Concerto with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on Oct. 21, 1937. Following this glowing reception, the 11-year-old pianist was invited to perform at a pension fund concert with the New York Philharmonic the following month.

Critic Lawrence Gilman was moved to recall the debut of Josef Hofmann as a prodigy a half century before. “His fingers are fleet, his conceptions clear and intelligent,” wrote Gilman of Katchen. “He has a musically feeling for the contour and flow and rhythm of a phrase and a sense of what is meant by Mozartean style.” and the New York Times critic, Howard Taubman reported: “He wore the traditional prodigy costume, a low-necked white shirt, knee-length trousers and black shoes and socks. As he waited for his cue, he rubbed his hands on his knees and seemed eager to get on with his work. His fingers were fleet, assured and accurate. One could scarcely ask for more in a boy of 11.”

For the next three years, young Katchen appeared regularly in concerts with major American symphony orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Detroit Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Then at the age of 14, he left the concert stage to complete high school and college and followed the parent’s advice to study the general course. So he went to Haverford College and majored in philosophy and English literature. He was graduated from Long Branch High School and, in 1945, from Haverford (Pa.) College, where he majored in philosophy and literature and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. Then he continued his musical studies under the grandmother, who had teaching experience at academy of Moscow and Warsaw, until the age of 15 at home. His academic accomplishments won him a French government fellowship. He went to Paris to study French literature. But he resumed concertizing in the fall of 1946, where he became the professional pianist with an official staging debut at Paris. He accepted an invitation to play at the first International United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Festival, following that French debut, with seven concerts in 11 days. His value skyrocketed and his legend had begun from the moment of the contract with Decca, due to the safe landing in British musical circle by performing at the Royal Philharmonic Society concert.

Julius Katchen

Because he thought the opportunities better for concert dates and musical growth, Katchen built his career in Europe. Decca Records signed him to an exclusive contract and he began recording a bracing cross-section of the repertory with Brahms always at the core. He presented concert performances of Brahms’ complete solo piano works in New York, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Berlin and was heard with major orchestras in the two piano concertos. He was a pioneer in the field of long play recordings: his recordings of Brahms’ F Minor Sonata for London Records was the first recorded piano LP and he was the first artist to make an LP piano concerto recording, the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto. He also gave a number of first performances of works by contemporary Americans. He played at the European premieres of Gershwin’s Preludes and Bartok’s Mikrokosmos. And he was an internationally acclaimed musician when he returned to America after an absence of 10 years to perform during the 1962-63 season, appearing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Karl Böhm exactly 25 years to the day after his first concert with that orchestra at the age of 11. During that season, he also appeared for the Monmouth Arts Foundation’s series in the Carlton Theatre. “It’s a great joy to be back — I’ve been away so long,” Katchen said in a Daily Register interview then. He made news headline in 1962, when he cancelled a 12-concert tour of East Berlin and East Germany and, in retaliation, Soviet composer, Aram Khatchaturian cancelled a recording date with him in Vienna. Katchen, who had played a concert with Khatchaturian in East Berlin a year earlier, said he cancelled the concert tour when he learned it would be used for propaganda purposes because to make it “would have given my approval to the Communist regime in East Germany.”

Katchen specialized in the music of Brahms. In the winter of 1966, he appeared in New York’s Town Hall in a series of four recitals which included all Brahms’ solo piano works. He also performed the Brahms series in London, Berlin and Amsterdam. He recorded all of Brahms’s piano’ works, and Howard Klein of the New York Times reported “Katchen has all the requirements of a fine Brahms player, a full tone that does not bite, a massive technique, an ear for grand and delicate sonorities and a plastic sense of rhythm that lets the music breathe . . . he is a distinguished survey. In addition to solo appearances, Katchen often took part in chamber music performances, again concentrating on Brahms, but certainly not neglecting other aspects of an extensive personal repertory.

Ned Rorem and Benjamin Britten were just two contemporary composers to benefit from Katchen’s advocacy. For non-musical relaxation, he turned to Ping-Pong, often played with fellow musicians, and giving table tennis exhibitions in Australia and Japan. He also was a collector of Chinese porcelain and Japanese ivory. He was married to the former Arlette Fatoux of Paris, whom he married in 1958. His last public appearance was with the London Symphony Orchestra on December 12, 1968, playing Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.

Katchen succumbed to cancer the next spring and died at the age of 42 at his home in Paris on April 29, 1969.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

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