Peter Katin

piano (1930-2015)

Also see tribute by Stephen Beville here

“Katin is not the sort of pianist who attracts, or who has ever indeed courted, the lavish publicity that can surround artists today. For those of us of a certain generation, he has always been there; we may even have been guilty of taking him for granted, as the firmament of pianistic stars became all the more crowded. But he introduced many of us to the core works of the solo and concerto repertory, and, as this recital showed, he can still create a frisson through his sensitive musicianship and his impeccable sense of style. The programme book quoted a Daily Telegraph review of his London recital last January, commenting that his playing has the ability to transcend fashion. His recital could not have reinforced the point more eloquently, for Katin’s faith in music and its composers is ageless. It seems to be his whole reason for playing.” –
Daily Telegraph, December 18, 1998

1998 marked the 50th anniversary of Peter Katin’s London début. Born in London, his musical talent was evident at the age of four, and he was admitted to the senior department of the Royal Academy of Music when he was twelve, four years before the official age of entry. The success of his Wigmore Hall début in 1948 started him on a career that has taken him throughout the world (he was the first British artist to give a post-war solo tour of the then USSR), and in those earlier years he was greatly influenced by his meetings with Clifford Curzon, Claudio Arrau and Myra Hess, who gave him much advice for which he has always been deeply grateful. His early successes seemed centred round the classical composers; he was greatly in demand for Mozart concerto performances in particular and he also developed a rare talent for chamber music. However, a performance of Rachmaninov’s D minor Concerto in 1953 changed his image almost overnight, and hailed as a virtuoso of the first order he was constantly in demand for the most taxing of romantic concertos until the late sixties, but by that time he decided that he needed to make a more in-depth study of the composers who had almost escaped him when he was immersed in the big major works.

The first composer in this specialised study was Chopin, and he became regarded as one of the finest interpreters of this composer’s music. He was sufficiently encouraged to make similar studies of Schubert, Schumann, Debussy and Liszt, and as a result gave a number of one-composer recitals. His repertoire became very flexible and he was happy about performing concertos by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms in one week, while keeping a very wide variety of styles in his recital programmes.

In December 1997 he visited New York where he gave a recital of works by Schumann, Schubert, Debussy and Chopin, and after that, enjoyed more years of adventurous programming, which included an anniversary recital at Wigmore Hall on 13 December 1998, exactly fifty years from the date of his début, and celebrated his seventieth birthday in November 2000.
His constant encouragement of the preserving of individuality in young artists was one factor in the conferral during 1994 of an Honorary Doctorate by De Montfort University, and as a teacher, he  had highly successful years at the Royal Academy of Music, The University of Western Ontario, the Royal College of Music and Thames Valley University.

He had almost forty current recordings, which have been received with critical superlatives. These include the complete Mozart Sonatas, Chopin Nocturnes and Impromptus, Grieg Lyric Pieces, Chopin Waltzes and Polonaises and the Rachmaninov Preludes. A live performance of a recital including the Liszt Sonata was released to a rave review in Classic CD. His interest in period pianos resulted in three such recordings, as well as an all-Chopin programme on his own Collard & Collard 1836, and another on a Broadwood grand that was used by Chopin on the occasion of his last visit to London.

He also formed a Trio which gave him three years of chamber music which eluded him during the “virtuoso” years, and he rekindled his interest in Lieder. His outside interests included the theatre, literature and writing; he qas been a keen photographer since childhood, and an ardent record collector. He wrote his own programme and CD booklet notes, and was the author of several articles. He retired from public performance in 2004 and died, age 84, on March 19, 2015.

“Shut your eyes and you could be sitting around the piano at a Schubertiad melted by yet fresh wonders from the composer’s own hands.”(Gramophone)

The review extract above is one of many with which his recording of Schubert Impromptus (Diversions DDV 24112) was enthusiastically received when originally released as Athene ATHCD5, and the Schubert Recital ATH 23007 (ATHCD7) completes what would have been eleven Impromptus. His interest in period pianos led firstly to a recording of five Clementi Sonatas – Clementi on Clementi (Diversions DDV 24113),(previously on ATHCD4) whilst his later release Chopin • First and Last (Diversions DDV 24116) includes a collection of Chopin’s earlier works. It was originally issued as Athene ATHCD11.

Other recordings that Peter Katin has made, on modern pianos, include complete sets of Mozart Sonatas, Greig Lyric Pieces, and the Nocturnes, Impromptus, Waltzes and Polonaises of Chopin available on the Olympia label. On the Athene-Minerva label, ATH 23009 (ATHCD9) “Peter Katin in recital” is a live recording of a Liszt and Brahms recital given in 1983 at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada and is being received with critical acclaim. “. . the demonic rage of Katin’s astonishing performance . . . something to hear and wonder at”! – Michael Tanner – Classic CD. His discography now lists some forty recordings currently available.