Peter Katin plays Rachmaninov Preludes [Somm]

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0 of 5 stars

Rachmaninov
24 Preludes, Opp.3/2, 23 & 32

Peter Katin (piano)

Recorded 1971 in Springhead School, Northfleet, Kent, England


Reviewed by: Graham Rogers

Reviewed: October 2011
CD No: SOMM
SOMMCD 0110
Duration: 79 minutes

This generous collection of the complete Rachmaninov Preludes, reissued on the Somm label, is a self-recommending bargain. The pianist is Peter Katin, who celebrated his 80th-birthday in November 2010. These recordings were made when Katin was at the height of his formidable powers, a much-loved figure on concert platforms around the world. A renowned specialist in 19th- and 20th-century Romantic and Impressionist repertoire, Rachmaninov was one of Katin’s particular strengths (he had first shot to fame following his 1953 Proms performance of the Third Piano Concerto – an account which also contributed towards securing the fame of that work).

The recordings in this collection, first issued on two Unicorn LPs, display all the attributes that make Katin’s interpretations such a force to be reckoned with, even in today’s crowded market: precise articulation, fidelity to the composer’s dynamic markings and phrasing, terrific power, and – perhaps what marks Katin’s performances out above all – great tenderness and intimacy.

The opening fortissimo chords to the famous C sharp minor Prelude, with which the disc begins, are appropriately granite-like, the ensuing pianissimo passage marvellously hushed and reverential; the weighty climax is impressively monumental. There are many highlights on the rest of the album, Katin devoting as much care and passion to lesser-known Preludes such as the exquisitely-rendered delicate G major, from Opus 32, as he does to familiar ones such as the flamboyant G minor from Opus 23 – firmly under control but never lacking in extrovert showmanship.

The sound shows its age somewhat, with a slightly dry timbre that would benefit from a touch more bloom, but there is also depth and immediacy. The booklet includes brief but illuminating descriptions from Katin himself of each of the Preludes, as well as an interesting interview conducted by Colin Anderson (Classical Source’s editor), originally for Classical Recordings Quarterly. This release is a worthy tribute to one of Britain’s greatest pianists.

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