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Julius Katchen

A child prodigy of startling promise, Julius Katchen matured into a solo and chamber music pianist of broad interests and probing artistry. His death from cancer at age 42 denied a discerning public the presence of a pianist especially well-equipped to penetrate to the center-most meanings of those works he favored.

Born to a musical family, Katchen was instructed in the musical arts from his earliest years. His grandmother, formerly a faculty member at the Warsaw Conservatory, was his first piano instructor, while his grandfather taught him theory (his mother, a pianist, had trained at the Fontainebleau School of Music and had made concert appearances in both Europe and America). In 1937, Katchen presented himself to Eugene Ormandy and requested that he be permitted to play for him. Ormandy was sufficiently impressed to engage the lad for an appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The October 21, 1937, concert found Katchen performing Mozart's Concerto in D minor to high praise. Following this glowing reception, the 11-year-old pianist was invited to perform at a pension fund concert with the New York Philharmonic the following month. Critic Lawrence Gilman was moved to recall the debut of Josef Hofmann as a prodigy a half century before.

Before his career advanced, however, Katchen's parents chose to place a hold on further public appearances and enroll him instead at Haverford College, where he majored in philosophy and English literature. His break, Katchen often insisted, developed in him the intellectual curiosity that fed his interest in the more mentally challenging works in the repertory.

A fellowship extended by the French government permitted Katchen to travel to Paris in 1946; that cosmopolitan city became his home for the remainder of his life and he lost no time in making himself a formidable presence there and in the rest of Europe, respected for his commanding interpretive thoughtfulness and virtuoso technique. Decca Records signed him to an exclusive contract and he began recording a bracing cross-section of the repertory with Brahms always at the core. In addition to solo appearances, Katchen often took part in chamber music performances, again concentrating on Brahms, but certainly not neglecting other aspects of an extensive personal repertory. Ned Rorem and Benjamin Britten were just two contemporary composers to benefit from Katchen's advocacy.

Katchen was also acutely aware of the need to extend the exposure of classical music well beyond its existing ranks -- on December 11, 1968, he was one of a large group of musicians, all but one of them from the rock and blues fields, to perform as part of the Rolling Stones' Rock & Roll Circus, and a segment that was introduced by Brian Jones, no less; alas, due to production and post-production problems, no one got to see any part of Katchen's performance until over three decades later; the pianist himself, terminally ill with cancer, didn't live another six months after this extraordinary event. His tragic death was keenly felt on both sides of the Atlantic.
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Brahms: Works for Solo Piano

Disc 1
Title: Variations (28) on a Theme of Paganini, for piano, in A minor, Op. 35

1. Variations (28) on a Theme of Paganini, for piano, in A minor, Op. 35: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35: Book 1

2. Variations (28) on a Theme of Paganini, for piano, in A minor, Op. 35: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35: Book 2

Title: Variations (25) and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, for piano, in B flat major, Op. 24

3. Variations (25) and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, for piano, in B flat major, Op. 24: Variations (25) and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, for Piano, in B Flat Major, Op. 24

Title: Ballades (4) For Piano, Op. 10

4. Ballades (4) For Piano, Op. 10: I. Ballade in D Minor, Andante (after the Scottish ballad "Edward")

5. Ballades (4) For Piano, Op. 10: II. Ballade in D Major, Andante

6. Ballades (4) For Piano, Op. 10: III. Ballade in B Minor, Intermezzo, Allegro

7. Ballades (4) For Piano, Op. 10: IV. Ballade in B Major, Andante Con Moto

Disc 2
Title: Variations (16) On A Theme Of Schumann, For Piano In F Sharp Minor, Op. 9

1. Variations (16) On A Theme Of Schumann, For Piano In F Sharp Minor, Op. 9: Variations (16) on a Theme of Schumann, for Piano in F Sharp Minor, Op. 9

Title: Variations (11) On An Original Theme In D Major For Piano, Op. 21/1

2. Variations (11) On An Original Theme In D Major For Piano, Op. 21/1: Variations (11) on an Original Theme in D Major for Piano, Op. 21/1

Title: Variations (13) on a Hungarian song for piano in D major, Op. 21/2

3. Variations (13) on a Hungarian song for piano in D major, Op. 21/2: Variations (13) on a Hungarian Song for Piano in D Major, Op. 21/2

Title: Waltzes (16) For Piano, 4 Hands (Or Piano), Op. 39

4. Waltzes (16) For Piano, 4 Hands (Or Piano), Op. 39: Waltzes (16) for Piano, 4 Hands (Or Piano), Op. 39; I - VIII

5. Waltzes (16) For Piano, 4 Hands (Or Piano), Op. 39: Waltzes (16) for Piano, 4 Hands (Or Piano), Op. 39; IX - XVI

Title: Scherzo for piano in E flat minor, Op. 4

6. Scherzo for piano in E flat minor, Op. 4: Scherzo for Piano in E Flat Minor, Op. 4

Disc 3
Title: Piano Sonata No. 1 In C Major, Op. 1

1. Piano Sonata No. 1 In C Major, Op. 1: I. Allegro

2. Piano Sonata No. 1 In C Major, Op. 1: II. Andante

3. Piano Sonata No. 1 In C Major, Op. 1: III. Scherzo & Trio, Allegro Molto E Con Fuoco; Piu Mosso

4. Piano Sonata No. 1 In C Major, Op. 1: IV. Finale, Allegro Con Fuoco

Title: Piano Sonata No. 2 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 2

5. Piano Sonata No. 2 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 2: I. Allegro Non Troppo, Ma Energico

6. Piano Sonata No. 2 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 2: II. Andante Con Espressione

7. Piano Sonata No. 2 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 2: III. Scherzo & Trio, Allegro; Poco piu moderato

8. Piano Sonata No. 2 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 2: IV. Finale, Introduzione, Allegro Non Troppo E Rubato

Title: Rhapsodies (2) For Piano, Op. 79

9. Rhapsodies (2) For Piano, Op. 79: I. Rhapsody in B Minor, Op. 79

10. Rhapsodies (2) For Piano, Op. 79: II. Rhapsody in G Minor, Op. 79

Disc 4
Title: Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5

1. Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5: I. Allegro Maestoso

2. Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5: II. Andante Espressivo

3. Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5: III. Scherzo & Trio, Allegro Energico

4. Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5: IV. Intermezzo, Andante Molto

5. Piano Sonata No. 3 In F Minor, Op. 5: V. Finale, Allegro Moderato Ma Rubato

Title: Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116

6. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: I. Capriccio in D Minor

7. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: II. Intermezzo in A Minor

8. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: III. Capriccio in G Minor

9. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: IV. Intermezzo in E Major

10. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: V. Intermezzo in E Minor

11. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: VI. Intermezzo in E Major

12. Fantasias (7) For Piano, Op. 116: VII. Capriccio in D Minor

Disc 5
Title: Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76

1. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: I. Capriccio in F Sharp Minor

2. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: II. Capriccio in B Minor

3. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: III. Intermezzo in A Flat Major

4. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: IV. Intermezzo in B Flat Major,

5. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: V. Capriccio in C Sharp Minor

6. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: VI. Intermezzo in A Major,

7. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: VII. Intermezzo in A Minor

8. Pieces (8) for Piano, Op. 76: VIII. Capriccio in C Major

Title: Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118

9. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: I. Intermezzo in A Minor

10. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: II. Intermezzo in a Major

11. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: III. Ballade in G Minor

12. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: IV. Intermezzo in F Minor

13. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: V. Romanze in F Major

14. Pieces (6) For Piano, Op. 118: VI. Intermezzo in E Flat Minor

Title: Pieces (4) For Piano, Op. 119

15. Pieces (4) For Piano, Op. 119: I. Intermezzo in B Minor

16. Pieces (4) For Piano, Op. 119: II. Intermezzo in E Minor

17. Pieces (4) For Piano, Op. 119: III. Intermezzo in C Major

18. Pieces (4) For Piano, Op. 119: IV. Rhapsody in E Flat Major

Disc 6
Title: Intermezzi (3) For Piano, Op. 117

1. Intermezzi (3) For Piano, Op. 117: I. Intermezzo in E Flat Major: Andante Moderato

2. Intermezzi (3) For Piano, Op. 117: II. Intermezzo in B Flat Minor: Andante Non Troppo E Con Molto Espressione

3. Intermezzi (3) For Piano, Op. 117: III. Intermezzo in C Sharp Minor: Andante Con Moto

Title: Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1

4. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: I. Allegro Molto, G Minor

5. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: II. Allegro Non Assai, D Minor

6. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: III. Allegretto, F Major

7. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: IV. Poco Sostenuto, F-Sharp Minor

8. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: V. Allegro, F Sharp Minor

9. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: VI. Vivace, D Flat Major

10. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: VII. Allegretto, F Major

11. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: VIII. Presto, A Minor

12. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: IX. Allegro, E Minor

13. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: X. Presto, E Major

14. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XI. In A Minor

15. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XII. In D Minor

16. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XIII. In D Major

17. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XIV. In D Minor

18. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XV. In B Flat Major

19. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XVI. In F Minor

20. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XVII. In F Sharp Minor

21. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XVIII. In D Major

22. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XIX. No. 19 in B Minor

23. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XX. In E Minor

24. Hungarian Dances (21) for piano, 4 hands (or piano solo), WoO 1: XXI. In E Minor

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