"Cyprien Katsaris is always eager to play original programmes, so it was to be expected that he would make a highly original contribution to the Beethoven Year. On 6 CDs he plays 41 works in chronological order, from the 11-year-old’s Dressler Variations to the Musical Joke of 1826. In addition to eight sonatas, including the Moonlight Sonata, The Tempest, Appassionata, A Thérèse and Op. 111, there is a whole series of transcriptions of movements from chamber music works by Beethoven himself, by Carl Czerny, Anton Diabelli, Modest Mussorgsky, Richard Wagner, Louis Winkler, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Franz Liszt.
69-year-old Katsaris no longer needs to prove anything to anyone. He shows his great talent and authority with interpretations that are very personal, but never overdone, researched or even mannered. Whether in the transcriptions or in the sonatas, his views are admirably well elaborated and coherent.
In the arrangements, Katsaris succeeds in enhancing the music and making it original. His playing is never excessively loud, never fast-paced just for the speed effect, and across the six discs it is very differentiated, always spontaneous and correspondingly attractive. There is no fatigue, there is no flatness whatsoever, because the flexible performance is undeniably exciting with nuances, contrasts, a great deal of articulatory sensitivity and a genuine architectural flair, sometimes spiced with phenomenal virtuosity and finely regulated finger acrobatics, whose musical quality is combined with the most subtle naturalness. A good example for the pianist’s razor-sharp pianism are the 32 Variations. Among the slower movements, let’s point out the Adagio from the Ninth Symphony, transcribed by Richard Wagner. It is carefully played with moving noblesse.
The sonatas are no less successful in their eloquent interpretations. Katsaris’ dynamic gradations and the virile, urgent finale in the Moonlight Sonata are as remarkable as the rhetoric of the Tempest Sonata, the coherence of the Appassionata or the all-round convincing dramaturgy in Opus 111."