(born on 1951)
Cyprien Katsaris is one of those rare pianists whose technique, interpretive acumen, and intuitive sense combine to astonish his listeners. Typically, he divulges a uniquely eccentric manner at the keyboard: he smiles, gestures oddly with a free hand, frequently looks away from the piano during the thorniest passages, and often rises as he's striking the last chord. Katsaris possesses a broad repertory, taking in works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Messiaen, and countless others. He is also a composer of some note, too, having written original works for piano, and transcriptions of well-known orchestral works for piano and cadenzas for various Mozart piano concertos. Katsaris has made numerous recordings over the years for many labels, including BMG/RCA, DG, Decca, EMI, Sony Classical, Telefunken, and Warner. Cyprien Katsaris was born in Marseilles, France, on May 5, 1951. Raised in Cameroon, Africa, he began playing the piano at four. His advanced piano studies were at the Paris Conservatory under Monique de la Bruchollerie and Aline van Barentzen. He also studied chamber music performance there with René Leroy and Jean Hubeau. Katsaris captured first prize at the Conservatory in both piano (1969) and chamber music (1970). Though he was a seasoned concert artist by the early '70s (his Paris debut was in 1966 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, playing the Liszt Hungarian Fantasy), his breakthrough came in 1974 when he won the Cziffra Competition in Versailles. Katsaris was thereafter in demand as soloist and recitalist at the most prestigious venues across the globe. In 1977 he was an appointed music director of the Festival International Echternach, serving until 2007. The following year he was chosen as soloist at the inaugural concerts of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, including for a series of concerts on tour. That same year he gave his U.S. debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati. By the late '70s he was also making recordings, the first major one a 1980 Telefunken LP of solo Liszt compositions. Katsaris won three Grand Prix du Disque awards for Teldec recordings of Chopin (1985) and Liszt (1984 and 1989). In 1992 Katsaris appeared on Japanese TV in a 13-part series devoted to Chopin. In the new century Katsaris remains active: among his more memorable concerts was his appearance at the Beijing National Center for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the 2008 Olympics.
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Classical - Released May 1, 2020 | Piano 21
In the 1980s, Cyprien Katsaris lit up the discographic landscape with his recording for Teldec of the complete nine symphonies of Beethoven in the superlative transcriptions of Franz Liszt, a landmark undertaking. At the dawn of the festivities marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the Franco-Cypriot pianist is offering us another bold project, a six-disc box set dedicated entirely to the Master of Bonn. This chronological “Beethovenian Odyssey” is comprised of particularly rare original works and transcriptions. It begins and ends with his very first and last works, enabling us to steep ourselves in the world of Beethoven and, by virtue of the solo piano, to troll through forty years of a creative life that left a deep impression on the history of music. So, the journey begins with the Variations on a Theme of Dressler, composed by a twelve-year-old adolescent, heavily influenced by Mozart and Haydn, followed by the very first sonata composed by Beethoven a few months later, not the Sonata in D Minor, Op. 2, No. 1, written more than ten years later (also in this box set, further on), cited as the first in the catalogue of the composer’s works, but another, fairly short piece, in E-Flat Major, that of the future “Emperor”, the first of three “sonatas” composed between 1782 and 1783 and dedicated to the Prince-Elector of Cologne, Maximilian Francis of Austria. Then follows an almost unknown work, the Two Preludes Op. 39, surprisingly experimental. Throughout this box-set journey, Cyprien Katsaris has no qualms about visiting works that are seldom played, in keeping with the watchword for his Piano 21 label: he plays what he loves, with an ever-fresh sense of sharing and curiosity. Thus he unveils for us a solo piano arrangement for the “Spring” and “Kreutzer” sonatas for piano and violin, the slow movements of the Sixth and Sixteenth Quartets of Saint-Saëns and Mussorgsky, and the slow movement of Ninth Symphony in the Wagner’s arrangement. These transcriptions also shed light on a number of major figures of the musical world of the XIXth Century in Europe, sometimes forgotten (Louis Winkler, Gustav Roesler), sometimes neglected (Carl Czerny, Anton Diabelli) and attest to the radiant, irresistible aura of Beethoven’s genius for at least a century. Cyprien Katsaris certainly shares quantities of unpublished material here, but he does not neglect the more renowned side of Beethoven’s works, including in this programme eight of the thirty-eight sonatas (not least the most famous “Clair de Lune”, “The Tempest” and “Appassionata”). Everything you ever wanted to know about the greatness of Beethoven but never dared to ask can truly be found here. © Piano21
Beethoven: The Creatures of Prometheus & Symphony No. 7, Extract (World Premiere Recording, Arr. for Piano)
Classical - Released September 2, 2001 | Piano 21
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Cyprien Katsaris in the magazine