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Amir Katz Frédéric Chopin: 21 Nocturnes OC 779 2 CD
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Format2 Audio CD
Ordering NumberOC 779
Release date04/08/2010
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Chopin, Frédéric

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      Frédéric Chopin

      21 Nocturnes
      Amir Katz, Klavier

      It was only after many concert performances and precise historical research that pianist Amir Katz, who lives in Berlin, decided to record all of Frédéric Chopin’s nocturnes. In doing so he attempts to precisely follow Chopin’s guidelines concerning tempo and dynamics, but he also pays attention to the apparent freedoms of the composition which were A kaleidoscope of the small form – Amir Katz plays Chopin’s 21 Nocturnes quite natural for Chopin and other interpreters of his time. This results in a meticulously developed yet lively interpretation which does not fail to capture the energy of spontaneity.
      Amir Katz was born in Israel in 1973 and received his first piano lessons there. He continued his education in Europe. Amir Katz lives in Berlin.

      an Interview with Amir Katz

      A provocative question from the outset: do we need another recording of the Nocturnes of Frédéric Chopin?
      Counter-question: why not? If I had just recorded five completely different versions, who could say with certainty from whom they originate, which is the best, which might be mine? Every generation of pianists has its own voice. There will always be discoveries within the details, a new Urtext edition, new instruments. This spectrum of infinite possibilities makes great art immortal.

      What constitutes for you Chopin’s richness?
      An intimate friend of Chopin, his student and the daughter of George Sand, Solange Clésinger, described it quite colorfully: “Under the flexible and responsive fingers of Chopin’s pale and frail hand the piano became the voice of an archangel, an orchestra, an army, a raging ocean, a creation of the universe, the end of the world. What divine majesty! What elemental forces, what cries of despair! What triumphant hymns! What suave grace, what angelical tenderness, what infinite sorrows! What funeral marches and triumphal processions! What rays of sunlight on flowers in full bloom, on the glittering river, on the valley of scented lemon trees! What tears from the depths of the damp cloister! What impatient whinnyings of the war-horse, what duels of knights, what village or courtly dances (what minuets) interrupted by the jingling of arms or the cannon of the citadel! And what melancholy raindrops falling one by one on the tiles in the cell garden!”

      In your opinion, how binding is the score with its performance, dynamic, and tempo markings?

      With Chopin one must relativize – or not! – the notion of “Urtext.” On the one hand there are quite a lot of sources; on the other hand, Chopin performed his pieces slightly differently each time, in numerous variations, with new dynamic markings, phrasings, and even with different notes. It may be that several versions stand on equal footing despite differing from one another. Discrepancies existed, particularly in the teaching editions, even in the ornamentation, some of which I found interesting and have employed in this recording. In Jan Ekier’s edition, which is considered THE Urtext edition, there is a line: “Obvious printing errors have been tacitly corrected by us.” In his critical commentary Ekier provides a lot of very valuable information regarding various sources and the performance practice that results from the teaching samples, but like Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger’s “Chopin – Pianist and Teacher,” one must enjoy it in moderation. In both cases there are inaccuracies and subjective speculations.

      Rubato and agogic accents in general are an aggravating topic for playing Chopin!
      But rubato is an extremely delicate matter. Chopin’s student Karol Mikuli emphasizes how, while the one hand accompanies – always strictly in tempo, the right hand sings the melody freely, sometimes hesitating, sometimes articulating vehemently as in a speech. After hearing recordings of Mikuli’s students Moriz Rosenthal and Raoul Koczalski, I think what is meant by the strict left hand is probably the pulse rather than an absolutely metronomic execution by the left hand. The latter would sound distracting and unnatural. Chopin himself took rhythmic freedoms he did not notate. In a letter from 14 November 1829, he writes this about a student: “She has a lot of real musical feelings; one did not have to say: crescendo here, piano there; now quicker now slower, and so on.’” It would be impossible to notate such freedoms. Like Italian music, Chopin’s rhythms are almost always based on movement, on a very flexible flow.

      How do you deal with the precise metronomic markings Chopin indicated for his pieces?
      In Chopin they harbor a certain paradox. Chopin differentiates very carefully between Andante, Larghetto, Lento, Lento sostenuto, etc. All are determined by a notion of “con moto,” that is, by a very flowing movement. Is that a paradox, or did one formerly play slow tempi faster? For this there is some evidence. When I began preparing this CD by playing the Nocturnes in very different cities, I wanted to follow Chopin’s metronome markings exactly. But I quickly noticed that one cannot determine the tempo in advance. Many factors influence the tempo: the acoustics, the layout of the concert hall, the instrument, which is a different one every night. It is more important to establish from within – with the heart – an intimate bond with the music, rather than to enforce certain tempo guidelines.

      Please name one detail.
      In the first three Nocturnes the difference in character is already enormous depending on how fast one plays them. With a faster tempo they acquire a certain agitation. The third Nocturne from op. 9 is mostly played fairly slowly, while the tempo marking reads “Allegretto scherzando.” With the tempo of the prescribed metronomic indication, one can capture this character; otherwise the chromatics sound entirely like “Lento e mesto,” that is, slowly and sadly.

      Do you have a favorite Nocturne?
      Not really. I love them all so much! Nevertheless, No. 16 in E-flat major, op. 55/2, spontaneously comes to mind. What the left hand plays gives me the feeling of a hand embracing two people. And for me one of the most sensuous love duets in music emerges from that.

      You’ve just been in Poland again – tracing the footsteps of your Jewish ancestors who did not survive the Holocaust – and played the Nocturnes there. What effect did that have on your performance? Playing the Nocturnes always means going on a very emotional journey, and in my recording I have tried to give the pieces a psychological coherence, to play them as a cycle. In contrast to many people who live in Europe and know that their roots here go back hundreds of years, I see my life as a kind of journey. I have lived in so many countries because I have always been searching for my identity. The fact that my roots are in Poland connects me to this land – and to its past. I know a lot about my family, as the Jews who left Poland took their culture and customs along with them. To return there and find the graves of my ancestors is very important for me. I gave a concert in Jaworzno in honor of my family. And with that things came full circle.

      The interview was conducted by Klaus Kalchschmid
      Translation: Danny Bowles

      Tracklist hide

      hide CD 1
      • 1.Op. 9 No. 1 in B-flat minor05:22
      • 2.Op. 9 No. 2 in E-flat major03:59
      • 3.Op. 9 No. 3 in B major05:48
      • 4.Op. 15 No. 1 in F major04:05
      • 5.Op. 15 No. 2 in F-sharp major03:49
      • 6.Op. 15 No. 3 in G minor04:10
      • 7.Op. 27 No. 1 in C-sharp minor04:43
      • 8.Op. 27 No. 2 in D-flat major05:02
      • 9.Op. 32 No. 1 in B major04:46
      • 10.Op. 32 No. 2 in A-flat major05:39
      • 11.Op. 37 No. 1 in G minor06:16
      • 12.Op. 37 No. 2 in G major05:32
      • Total:59:11
      more CD 2
      • 1.Op. 48 No. 1 in C minor06:34
      • 2.Op. 48 No. 2 in F-sharp minor07:10
      • 3.Op. 55 No. 1 in F minor04:43
      • 4.Op. 55 No. 2 in E-flat major04:47
      • 5.Op. 62 No. 1 in B major07:34
      • 6.Op. 62 No. 2 in E major05:32
      • 7.Op. post. 72 No. 1 in E minor04:25
      • 8.KK IVa No. 16 in C-sharp minor04:38
      • 9.KK IVb No. 8 in C minor03:09
      • Total:48:32