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Rachfan - Georgy Catoire Quatre Morceaux: Etude Fantastique 12/4: 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
gerg 2010-08-26 17:29:55 Rachfan,

I found your Op. 17 recordings and am listening to them. Needless to say, your playing shines and inspires.

Everyone I like is studying Russian composers these days, so I guess I ought to join in, да?


Rachfan 2010-08-23 19:29:45 Hi Sorcerer,

Thanks so much for your comments! It's hard to compete with Hamelin, but often I do take a different approach to this music. On the recording, I use the Korg MR-1000 recorder and an Earthworks matched pair of TC20 small diaphragm, omnidirectional condenser mics. Ah, Op. 10, No. 2! You have fine taste when it comes to Catoire. I love that piece too! I have printed out the score, but have some other pieces that are ahead of it in the queue, but I hope to get to it.

Sorcerer88 2010-08-23 17:08:55 Certainly a very personal approach, and i liked it, though Hamelin makes it easier to follow the development in his faster tempo. on the other hand, you make Hamelin sound oversimplifying and keep an air of complexion. great recording, probably one to be enjoyed and discovered multiple times!
by the way, have you played Op. 10 #2 ? That's my favourite Catoire so far.
Rachfan 2010-08-22 23:53:24 Hi gerg,

I like your analogy of the dormant seed. Who knows? This might be the catalyst for it to bloom. Let's hope!

As far as your skill level goes, after hearing your Faure nocturne, I believe it's quite high! I think there are any number of Catoire's piece that you could try. I started with Op. 17, the Four Preludes. (If you'd like I can give you a link to my recordings of them so you can see if they appeal or not.) I've also done the Chants du Crepuscule, Op. 24 which are atmospheric pieces sometimes verging on impressionism and expressionism. I've recorded those as well. They do have some complexities. Some people like to start with the early opuses, Nos. 2, 3 and 6 which tend to be more straight forward. Let me know if I can assist.


gerg 2010-08-22 23:20:46 That is certainly true. It does seem a waste, doesn't it, that such a divine gift as Catoire's would go so unnoticed.

Perhaps his blossom in the musical firmament will be like a seed that has lain dormant under the ground for many years, perhaps on account of a flood or catastrophe, and finally, due to a shift in the soil, perhaps through winter heaving, gets the spring heat it needs.

This e-cital has generated a great deal of positive feedback, more than any e-cital I've yet seen, and if you and I can do our part to bring this great composer's work to the light of the recognition they deserve, that certainly lends a much deeper purpose to what we are all doing, and would be a very great reward indeed. I would learn something of Catoire's, within my skill level.
Rachfan 2010-08-22 21:28:47 Hi gerg,

I often say that trying to raise awareness of Catoire's music has been harder than rolling a heavy boulder uphill. Not the least of the problems is that if somebody goes to a piano forum, they're looking perhaps for Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, or whomever. When the see an unknown name like Catoire, too often the tendency is to think "Unknown, so it can't possibly be any good" and they skip over it. For the few who actually do pause and listen, the music comes as a shock. They want to know where this composer has been, why they've never heard of him before, why there are nearly no recordings, and why his music isn't at the sheet music store. I feel gratified when a pianist tells me that the next piece they'll do will be a Catoire piece. (Of course, one piece is all it takes to become addicted.) And I get doubly excited if someone says they're going to play the piece at an upcoming piano party or recital where others will hear it--the mulitplier effect!

So what I've learned during my struggle to champion this man's music is that it's impossible to bowl over everyone over at once. It's really a matter of winning one pianist over at a time. Hopefully this exposure in the Unsung Heroes E-cital will help turn the tide in Catoire's favor. After all these many decades of obscurity, he really deserves a break!

gerg 2010-08-22 20:44:16 He's not forgotten, though, not completely. The Soviets may have tried to airbrush him out of history but you have done your part to help right this wrong of history. You are quite the student of history, sir.
Rachfan 2010-08-22 20:11:10 Hi canonie

I felt honored playing this music and it's been a pleasure to share it. I'll be quite surprised if anyone you query has ever heard of Catoire. Most unhappily, he's all but totally forgotten.

Rachfan 2010-08-22 20:10:24 Hi canonie

I felt honored playing this music and it's been a pleasure to share it. I'll be quite surprised if anyone you query has ever heard of Catoire. Most unhappily, he's all but totally forgotten.

canonie 2010-08-22 19:32:10 Thank you for your Catoire gifts. This one is a great finale. Yep; virtuosic, both of you. I'll be asking my teacher and others if they have heard of this composer.
Rachfan 2010-08-22 17:37:57 Hi SlatterFan

Although I studied piano with two excellent teachers for a total of 17 years, I tell you I learned the most about playing the piano "studying with Catoire". It was almost as if he was there guiding me through the difficulties. :-)

SlatterFan 2010-08-22 16:58:58 Great stuff! I like the way you say "between Catoire and myself"!
Rachfan 2010-08-21 23:01:32 Hi Heidi,

I considered learning this "Etude-fantastique" for perhaps two years or so, after a touring artist suggested that I do the entire set of Op. 12. The etude seemed very forbidding, as it's truly a virtuosic piece. I agonized over it. Then I thought, heck, I'm only going this way once! So it was like do or die. Once I was practicing the etude, it seemed more friendly to me and my style of playing, and I knew exactly where I wanted to go with it. Between Catoire and myself, I was able to overcome the technical issues and to achieve the overall effect I wanted. Finally I recorded it and was glad I had the courage to persevere. It's a gorgeous piece!

heidiv 2010-08-21 19:56:33 Surely you used three hands to play this piece :o
Rachfan 2010-08-21 15:54:00 Thanks, Carey! Between you and gerg, I have to make sure my head still fits through the doorways around the house. :-)

Rachfan 2010-08-21 09:50:06 Hi gerg,

Well, the piece is virtuosic, but... I'm not a virtuoso--just an amateur. Thanks for listening! :-)

Carey 2010-08-21 09:49:13 Ditto !!!!!!
gerg 2010-08-21 02:51:30 Virtuoso...