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Michael Ullman
Fanfare, September 2012

Having made successful recordings of the Chopin nocturnes and of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, Israeli pianist Amir Katz here turns again to Chopin with these often tender, sometimes explosive recordings of the ballades and impromptus…he is of course an impressive performer, with brilliant technical skills.

Musicologists note that the ballade is a form, or perhaps concept, invented by Chopin; it is in his hands a kind of sublimely rarified program music. Most of us would never guess, however, that the First Ballade had something to do with Polish nationalism, except that all of Chopin seems to have something to do with that sad subject. It begins boldly, then in Katz’s hands seems to recede. As the text requires, he states the initial theme quietly, soberly, after a significant pause. These opening bars reveal much of Katz’s approach, his rather classical restraint and remarkable ability to maintain tension while playing softly, or perhaps intently. The dramatic sections that follow are made even more effective by the natural ebb and flow of his playing. The gentle expositions of the melody here don’t seem to be interrupting the drama, as they can seem to do. Rather we are presented with a natural succession of moods, ending with a buoyant, almost triumphant restatement that Katz makes glisten. The other ballades show the same technical mastery…

Katz is a superior Chopin player, never eccentric and yet with his own ideas. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

John David Moore
American Record Guide, July 2012

Katz apparently spends a great deal of time in research before recording a program. Within the confines of such scholarly understanding…Katz creates strong and emotionally convincing performances filled with tension and contrast. His treatment of the Ballades in particular draws attention to their inner structure and a sense of large sweeping phrases. The tempestuous inner section of the second Ballade, for instance, is treated almost as a single phrase, roaring by in one big breath. This is indeed Chopin worth hearing, both intellectually grounded and emotionally charged. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

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