Katsaris ushered in the evening with his own improvisation, an art which sets him apart from the usual performers at the Konzerthaus Berlin. In response to the "stupid war," as well as to repertoire bans, he improvised on themes by Ukrainian composer Sergei Bortkiewicz and Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov. And it was amazing how tastefully and cantabile he combined the themes, developed virtuoso climaxes and conjured a sonority from the C. Bechstein concert grand that was absolutely thrilling.
"This grand piano is simply fantastic," Katsaris had already announced during the rehearsal. And indeed, the instrument allowed the pianist to develop the subsequent works by Bach, Haydn, Schubert, Liszt and Chopin in an immensely differentiated, tonally beautiful and colorful manner, as well as with a wide dynamic range. His relaxed technique allows Katsaris to still personalize where most other pianists are happy to just hit all the notes somewhat flatly.
A highlight in the second half was Katsaris' interpretation of Camille Saint-Saëns' music for the silent film "L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise." The concert hall mutated into a movie theatre, and Katsaris created the appropriate musical atmosphere for the conspiratorial-dramatic plot at the side of the stage. Finally, "The Carnival of the Animals" was no less pictorial, and was followed by three encores.
There will be further opportunities to experience Cyprien Katsaris at Bechstein (with the same program) on Wednesday, June 15, at the Salle Gaveau in Paris or with Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto on Sunday, June 19, at the Tblisi Piano Fest in Tbilisi (Georgia).