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Rachfan - Georgy Catoire Quatre Morceaux: Nocturne 12/3: Message Board

Rachfan's Comments

Georges Catoire (1861-1926) was a late romantic Russian-born composer of French lineage. He was also a pianist and professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, having studied piano with Karl Klindworth and composition with Otto Tirsch, Philip Rufer, and Anatol Liadov. Catoire’s music is nearly unknown today for several reasons: 1) He did not play or promote his compositions in recitals. 2) Catoire had been black-balled in the Moscow music scene by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov due to his advocacy for Richard Wagner and his music. 3) After the Bolshevik Revolution, Catoire’s music was ignored by the Soviet Ministry of Culture, as its late romantic character did nothing to extol socialism; nor were his scores reprinted in Russia again except for a single volume in 1928 now out of print. 4) Virtually all of his piano music is difficult to play well. Thus, immediately after his death in 1926, it was as if the composer’s music fell into an abyss, although Alexander Goldenweiser and David Oistrachk performed it occasionally. The traces of influence found in Catoire’s music are from Wagner, early Scriabin, and Faure, although his idiom is most original.

Piano: My Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6'3")

David April

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Name Date Comment
Rachfan 2010-08-23 19:33:07 Hi Sorcerer,

Yes, this pieces raises some hurdles for sure. It's one of those that you could go back to again and again finding new insights and ways to overcome the difficulties in the execution. What a lovely piece though!

Sorcerer88 2010-08-23 17:32:05 beautiful, almost sounds like an elegy. maybe it's a case of easy to learn - hard to master, so a good piece to go over at the piano, though it's quite long and polyphonous. but it sounds like it's worth all the effort to learn it completely anyways.
Rachfan 2010-08-22 17:43:05 Hi heidi,

Yes, touch is so important in playing this music. Much of it calls for a really rich, singing sound to bring out the beauty.

Rachfan 2010-08-22 17:29:11 Hi SlatterFan,

You're working your way through these Catoire pieces! I'm delighted. Catoire's pieces are very melodic. I was fortunate in my youth to accompany singers, which taught me much about playing the piano. So I really focus on the "singing" quality of the piano in etching the cantabile melodic lines when playing this repertoire.

In Russia Catoire took a degree in mathematics and science, not music. He did actually work in his father's business for awhile, but his first love was music, so he left, undoubtedly not without causing some vexation. Klindworth tried to persuade him to become a touring artist, as Catoire played the piano very well. But his inclination was composing. Yes, his parents and friends saw little future in it and plenty of risk. Tchaikovsky ran into the very same opposition as I recall, so went to law school before breaking away to study music. Today nothing has changed. Parents wanting the best for their children still get quite nervous about the prospects for music careers.

While a professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, Catoire wrote an important text on composing along with some scholarly articles. I recall reading that these are still used in Russian Conservatories today. If Russian musicians happen to frequent this e-cital, perhaps they can confirm that for us. I must say though that I cannot understand why Russian pianists leave Catoire's repertoire to American and Canadian pianists! It seems incongruous.

SlatterFan 2010-08-22 16:49:35 Yet more beautiful music and playing. The music feels so fresh and almost improvised, and always seems to be singing, even the apparently un-melodic parts. (In these respects I feel a Chopin-like soul speaking to me.)

I just found the following in Wiki, which made me sad: "Catoire's family, friends, and colleagues were not sympathetic to his choice of career in composition, so in 1899, after a series of disappointments, Catoire withdrew to the countryside and nearly stopped composing entirely."

Thanks so much for bringing his special music to us.
Rachfan 2010-08-21 22:45:10 Hi Heidi,

This is one of the most lovely noctures I've ever encountered. By definition a nocturne, of course is a dreamy and romantic character piece to be played in the evening. This particular one even projects the nature of the evening itself. I love the twinkling stars effect in the latter part of the work. But it's so difficult to execute! This is one of those pieces that is deceptively simple--until you start practicing it. I spent extra time to master it. Yet it is one that I could work on for a lifetime.

heidiv 2010-08-21 19:58:45 Mystical. What a lovely touch you have which really brings out the beauty of this piece! Love the echo effect.
Rachfan 2010-08-21 19:22:28 Hi Inlanding,

Thanks for your kind comment on my playing. I appreciate that! Catoire is probably the most interesting composer I've ever encountered, and I love his late romantic sound. I would have to say that I now have a close affinity to this extraordinary composer. He was eclectic, embracing romanticism, impressionism, and expressionism--and sometimes simultaneously which produces some very stunning effects. He's fantastic! I've also recorded two other sets, the Four Preludes, Op. 17 and the Chants du Crepuscule, Op. 24. I can't decide which set I like best, as they're all wonderful. Thanks for listening.

Inlanding 2010-08-21 18:26:57 Such a unique sound from this composer. Very thoughtfully crafted pieces of music and you play them all so well. I am always impressed with those that can learn a series of pieces, then express them in a way that showcases the differences and brings out their intended purpose. Quite a feat!

Thanks for sharing your skill and introducing us to Georgy Catoire!