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A Little Dog Chasing its Tail: Cyprien Katsaris celebrates Chopin in this inspired Masterclass (Waltz, Op. 64 no. 1)

Cyprien Katsaris is a teacher’s teacher and pianist’s pianist. His prowess is on full display in a masterclass with a young girl who plays the Chopin Waltz, op. 64 no. 1. (Kudos to the Masterclass Media Foundation for adding this gem to its roster)

Like Boris Berman, Katsaris has a unique talent for transforming mechanical playing into something artistic, styled and very communicative.

This is what great teaching is about. (“play with a smile, let yourself go, forget everything around you…”)

The young student opens with an efficient, note perfect reading of the famous “Minute” Waltz, though in fact, the composition had no association with time or beating the clock. Katsaris frames it by relating the true details surrounding the work. It evoked the story of a charming little dog chasing its tail in a circular motion which Chopin noticed when in the company of his paramour, Georges Sands.

In a whimsical way, Katsaris gives impetus to release the spirit to the muse, and abandon tight, typed out playing. The little girl responds, and in short order, she’s soaring with fancy free musical expression and nuance. It’s a remarkable transformation.

Once she’s begun to shape phrases in the first part of the Waltz so they’ve surrendered an angular dimension that impeded a lilting musical flow, Katsaris works wonders in the middle section.

“Caress” the little dog, with short and then longer strokes, he says, as he demonstrates. Katsaris has a bounty of imaginative catch words and gestures to unleash full blown musical expression without inhibition.

It’s a universal challenge for musicians. While they must master notes, attend to proper fingering, and follow the composer’s dynamic markings, they should not sacrifice a spiritual awakening in the process.

Katsaris plies phrases, sculpts lines, and dances through the Waltz as he tells his enchanting stories. Such wisdom imparted with compelling charm, lures the child into a magical musical space.

It works miracles, and Chopin’s music lives forever in our hearts.

Bio, Cyprien Katsaris:

“Cyprien Katsaris, the French-Cypriot pianist and composer, was born on May 5th 1951 in Marseilles. He first began to play the piano at the age of four, in Cameroon where he spent his childhood. His first teacher was Marie-Gabrielle Louwerse.

“A graduate of the Paris Conservatoire where he studied piano with Aline van Barentzen and Monique de la Bruchollerie (piano First Prize, 1969), as well as chamber music with René Leroy and Jean Hubeau (First Prize, 1970), he won the International Young Interpreters Rostrum-UNESCO (Bratislava 1977), the First Prize in the International Cziffra Competition (Versailles 1974) and he was the only western-European prize-winner at the 1972 Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Competition. He was also awarded the Albert Roussel Foundation Prize (Paris 1970) and the Alex de Vries Foundation Prize (Antwerp 1972).

“He gave his first public concert in Paris, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on 8 May 1966, as a “Knight” of the youth competition “The Kingdom of Music”; he performed the Hungarian Fantasy by Franz Liszt, with the Orchestre Symphonique d’Ile-de-France conducted by René-Pierre Chouteau.

“His major international career includes performances with the world’s greatest orchestras, most notably The Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, SWR Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra Washington D.C., Detroit Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Toronto Symphony, The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Residenz Orchestra Den Haag, Brabant Orchestra, The NHK Symphony Orchestra (Tokyo), Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Bucharest George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, Milan RAI Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, The Oxford Philomusica, The Auckland Philharmonia and The City of Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra whose inaugural concert’s and subsequent tour he was the featured soloist (1978). He has collaborated with conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Mstslav Rostropovich, Sir Simon Rattle, Myung Whun Chung, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Antal Dorati, Ivan Fischer, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Kent Nagano, James Conlon, Sir Charles Mackerras, Rudolf Barshai, Sandor Végh, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Leif Segerstam, Dmitri Kitajenko, Andrey Boreyko, Christopher Warren-Green, Zdeněk Mácal, Xian Zhang, Paul Mann, Marios Papadopoulos… and Karl Münchinger, who on the festive occasion of his farewell concert in 1986, with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, personally invited Mr. Katsaris to perform the Haydn D major Concerto.

In addition to his activities as a soloist he founded the “Katsaris Piano Quintet”. This has received a very enthusiastic response from both the press and audiences in the Americas, Europe and Japan….”


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