Musical Pointers

Peter Katin’s disc of Schubert Impromptus is generously and fairly discussed in two reviews on Music Web (set out below). The point is well made that evaluation might have been assisted if at least one of the pieces had been recorded also on a modern piano for comparison (at TT 64:21 there would have been plenty of space on the CD! q.v. our report of Edmund Battersby’s two accounts of the Diabelli Variations on Naxos). And MW has two more reports on Katin’s Chopin disc, all four of them well worth reading.

What is special about these Peter Katin recordings, produced by Joanna Leach, is that the pianist’s own instruments and studio are used – fine small, domestic square pianos of limited compass and pretensions, ideal for home listening. They are comparable to those on which the music might have been played and listened to in the early 19 C., and again with the Schiedmayer and Steinway upright pianos on which through the mid- and late-20 C I had studied and enjoyed playing all that music in my own homes.

Steinway Grands, which bring with them the auras of competitive virtuosity, large concert halls and modern studio perfectionism (and, says Katin, a standardised uniformity so that pianists expect more or less identical instruments on platforms in New York, Sydney or London) bring surprises only in minutiae of interpretation. It is not unreasonable that over a lifetime of listening ennuie and a feeling of over familiarity can set in for those of us who are not dedicated specialists. In olden times the music listened to was generally new, and keyboard instruments were interestingly individual.

—Peter Grahame Woolf