Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 5. Wednesday, June 15, 1960
Since his last visit to New Zealand in 1957. American pianist Julius Katchen has been on what is virtually a continual world tour, making him one of the most widely-travelled and unanimously-acclaimed artists of the day. In the months that have elapsed he has played over two hundred concerts and, in addition to annual appearances in England. Germany. France. Spain and Italy, has toured from Indonesia. Hong Kong and Ethiopia to Poland and Rumania.
Highlights of this period include a recital debut in Berlin at which Katchen played the last three Beethoven sonatas and was hailed as "a master … an outstanding musician and a great artist" (Morgenpost); an appearance at Casals' famed Prades Festival (where he will again play in July. 1960); and a debut tour of Poland followed by an immediate reengagement during which he played 13 concerts in 20 days, including eight different concerti and three different recital programmes. (The Warsaw appearance was accorded such an ovation that Katchen could not leave the stage until he had played 11 encores).
"A Remarkable Evening"
Among his many London appearances was a performance with Pierre Monteux—later recorded— of the Brahms D minor Concerto, of which the Sunday Times critic wrote. "This Everest of concertos sounds no less monumental when its heights are made to seem less hazardous, tackled with assurance, and scaled with ease, as on this occasion." The following months in the same city Katchen was heard in a "marathon" concert at which he played Beethoven's Third, Fourth and Fifth concertos, receiving an accolade from The Times as "one of the few pianists of his generation capable of meeting Beethoven's technical and intellectual demands with assurance." The News Chronicle concurred: "A remarkable evening … Katchen's keyboard stamina is without parallel today. Happily it is balanced by the breadth and grandeur of Beethovenian conception … "
Role of Conductor
In addition to his pianistic achievements, Katchen has somehow found time to try his hand at yet another facet of musical activity, again with notable success. On November 22—22 years to the day after his New York Carnegie Hall debut as a child prodigy pianist—Katchen made his initial appearance in the role of conductor, leading Paris' noted Pasdeloup Orchestra in an all-Beet-the audience's part. However, without falling info inconsistency haven programme. Once more he received a vote of confidence; the crowd at the Palais de Chaillot clamoured for more, and the verdict, in the words of France-Soir, was: "Katchen is a man who has something to say. As a conductor as well as a pianist he imposes a true personality. The orchestra followed the conductor with a fire that one wished one would always hear!"
Katchen is perhaps best known as a concerto pianist with orchestra—he has a repertoire of 32 piano concertos. However, one of his great loves (beautiful French Wife Arlette, and Japanese Netsukitiny, grotesque, carved ivory figures being two others)—is ensemble playing with other instrumentalists.
This year's newspaper reports should be consistent with the remarkably complimentary ones of 1955 and 1957. Although in some musical quarters there was doubt as to the quality of Katchen's musicianship in 1957, the all Beethoven programme should conclusively show his greatness in 1960. The German critics, who filled the first four rows at his Berlin debut concert, being unanimous, no doubt gave the correct verdict.