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Katsaris In Recital

January 14, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA

Embarrassments of riches--too many pieces, too much sound, too many musical ideas and too heavy a pedal foot--marked Cyprien Katsaris' debut recital at Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, on Sunday night. To make matters more irritating, the Coughers Union seemed to have sent over a hacker's-dozen of their best noisemakers and distracters.

The Marseille-born pianist of Cypriot parentage overloaded this appearance. In minutes, his recital program was not too long; in musical content and decibels, it spilled over.

Katsaris' first half offered Schumann's "Scenes From Childhood," a viable opener consisting of 13 familiar and poetical miniatures, followed by a selection of 12 excerpts from Edvard Grieg's 10 albums of Lyric Pieces. By the time intermission arrived, the listener felt pelted with roses.

Nor was every musical missile pleasingly fragrant. Katsaris seems to be a very able and fluent young pianist (he was born in 1951), with a penchant for playing loud and fast most of the time and an undeveloped ear for nuance and variety of tone and texture. When he chooses to play softly, he often also chooses to distort the musical line--leaving it alone, keeping it simple and holding back are not his style.

What Katsaris did to Schumann and Grieg, then, was both too much and too little: He bent much music out of shape, failed to illuminate many details and merely shoved his way through the rest.

What he did to Franz Liszt's noble, tasteful and clarifying transcription of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, after intermission, ignored, often at precipitous tempos, both the grand design and the inner life of the original work.

Rushing headlong through the faster movements in a blur of overpedaling, the pianist impressed with his digital control, but not with his ear, which allowed an abundance of haze and noise to cloud all musical issues.

In his playing of the Funeral March, Katsaris produced no respite, nor any tighter control, only more grandstanding. Here he was joined by the coughers, who had been warming up all evening, in a crescendo of hacking, ending in the triumphal exit of their leader, mid-movement. As she left by the back door, she saluted the audience with a parting shot.

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