Man with magic at his fingertips

For the past three decades, Cyprien Katsaris has traveled around the globe several times a year. Unlike Puck, however, who casts spells in Shakespeare’s «Midsummer Night’s Dream,» Katsaris does not carry with him some magic potion, all he has to do is place his hands on the clavier. Katsaris, one of the leading piano soloists in the world today, is playing a recital tonight at the Athens Concert Hall. Prior to his Athenian engagement, he was in Mexico City (where we spoke to him), Paris and Luxembourg, while, following tonight’s concert, he is expected in Stockholm. Of Cypriot descent, the musician was born in Marseille in 1951, and though he seldom refers to Cyprus, his actions reveal his deeper feelings: On top of everything he has done for the island, he recently recorded an album titled «Cypriana,» interpreting works with Cypriot themes, such as Schubert’s «Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus.» Tonight’s concert is divided into two parts, one comprising well-known, popular pieces, while the another features lesser-known works. «Only 2 percent of the works composed in the 19th century are actually interpreted today. There are treasures out there,» says Katsaris, who passionately collects old scores. «I often lose myself in libraries and antique shops. You always find gems.» Just as with his concert recitals, his recordings often include known and lesser-known works, some of which have never been interpreted before. «I have recorded half of Chopin’s works, as well as all of Mozart’s concertos for piano and orchestra,» says Katsaris. «And along with the great works, I like to feature those which have been overlooked.» Tonight, therefore, at the Athens Concert Hall, the first part includes works from Franz Liszt’s «Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses,» based on the poems of Lamartine, together with three songs originally composed by Liszt, and transcribed for piano by Schubert. At the end of the first part, he will improvise on his own compositions, in the manner of 18th- and 19th-century pianists, which, according to Katsaris was «a lovely tradition which has been lost; it only survives in jazz.» The second part of the concert is dedicated to Bach: «Classical music’s Pythagoras and Plato, as his works encompassed everything, from mathematics to philosophy and music,» according to Katsaris. The pianist is interested in the three-dimensional aspect of Bach’s compositions for piano: original scores composed by the great master for piano, pieces originally written by Bach and other musicians for other instruments which were later adapted by Bach for piano, and finally adaptations of Bach piano works by other composers. Recordings Katsaris, who for more than 20 years has recorded with the largest multinational record companies, was recently in Mexico City, where, besides playing two concerts, he recorded two new albums featuring Latin American music for piano. Recently, many labels have started to look rather indifferently on classical music, so the pianist, along with other artists, decided to establish his own recording label, which has secured worldwide distribution. In Greece, records are available at Opera, situated in the arcade next to the National Opera. Among other works, Katsaris is planning to release two by Mikis Theodorakis (Symphony No. 2 «Of the Earth,» and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra), which he interpreted 20 years ago under Theodorakis’s baton with the Luxembourg Orchestra. What with the workload and the continuous globetrotting, does Katsaris put any time aside for his personal life? «I’m so in love with music and the piano,» he says. «I never got married, it was not a priority for me. My work comes first and my personal life exists when there is some time. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. This is passionate work and time flies and I still have so many things to do.»

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