Reviews of the CD, Brahms: Sonatas for Violin & Piano Wen-Lei Gu, violin; Catherine Kautsky, piano (Centaur)

“Pianist Catherine Kautsky and violinist Wen-Lei Gu, both professors of music at Lawrence University, Appleton, WI, show a remarkable rapport, a deft sense of phrasing, and a keen awareness of subtle, almost imperceptible, changes in rhythm and mood, plus unfailingly beautiful tones that serve Brahms’ Three Sonatas for Violin and Piano to perfection. In the process, they characterize these sonatas to a degree that one seldom encounters in the recital hall or on recordings. All these qualities, and more, make their performances memorable even in very fast competition.” — Phil’s Reviews

“There’s a really lovely set of the Brahms Three Sonatas for Violin and Piano featuring the duo of violinist Wen-Lei Gu and pianist Catherine Kautsky. Both performers are on the music faculty at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. The opening bars of the Sonata No.1 in G Major Op.78 always seem to set the tone for all three works, and it’s clear from the outset here that we are in excellent hands. From the autumnal feel of the first sonata through the warmth of the Sonata No.2 in A Major Op.100 to the passion and restlessness of the Sonata No.3 in D Minor Op.108 the playing here is all you could ask for, with warmth, sensitivity, passion when needed and an ever-present sense of innate musicality. If you collect different performances of these lovely sonatas then this will make a strong and welcome addition to your CDs; if you’re just looking for one set then this one has a great deal to offer and will certainly not disappoint you.” — The Whole Note

Reviews of the newly-published: Debussy’s Paris, Piano Portraits of the Belle Époque

“A wonderful book, a kind of total immersion in the Debussyan magic, and in the endless fascination of fin-de-siècle Paris. The writing fizzes with the excitement of connecting the countless different strands of the composer’s artistic influences and inspirations. I was entranced and delighted throughout.” —Richard Goode, Grammy Award-winning concert pianist, and teacher

“Debussy’s Paris presents a unique and panoramic view of this remarkably rich time in the history of both music and a changing world. It will delight both musicians and non-musicians alike.” — Gilbert Kalish, pianist, distinguished professor at Stony Brook University and artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

“With her exceptional gift for bringing to life the context of this great composer’s work, Catherine Kautsky succeeds brilliantly in offering new and arresting perspectives regarding Debussy, Paris, and the extraordinary world that defined them.” — Robert McDonald, award-winning concert pianist and professor, the Juilliard School and Curtis Institute of Music

“In this fascinating fusion of music, literature, and social history, Kautsky, a pianist and piano professor, transports us to the milieu of a composer whose music captured the spirit of the times. Her purpose, she writes, isn’t to “to provide a lengthy biography of Claude Debussy but rather to view him through the lens of his piano music and the city he so fully embraced.” Debussy, “the dreamy French composer par excellence,” counted among his acquaintances luminaries of the worlds of art (Degas, Gauguin, Rodin); literature (Proust, Mallarmé, Colette); and dance (Nijinsky, Diaghilev, Loie Fuller). Setting a number of his compositions in the context of the times, Kautsky explores a glittering world of music, dance, art, and poetry as well as its less appealing underside of racist minstrel shows, colonization, and nationalism. Her graceful and erudite prose is embellished with period illustrations and bolstered by a carefully selected bibliography. Kautsky has also recorded the complete Debussy Preludes (Centaur, 2014), a work that figures prominently in these pages. A treat for music lovers, Francophiles, and anyone who appreciates the arts.” — Booklist

“The first time I heard Professor Catherine Kautsky speak at a conference, I was utterly entranced: she gave a captivating, lively, and energetic session that I still remember years later. Her enthusiasm for French music was palpable, and she provided an exciting and thought-provoking framework for the works discussed. Since then, whenever presented with an opportunity to attend one of her appearances, I’ve jumped at the chance. Likewise, I jumped at the chance to read her book Debussy’s Paris: Piano Portraits of the Belle Époque. The book is as delightful as her speaking engagements and has lived up to all of my hopes and more.
Debussy’s Paris offers social and historical background for the time and place in which Debussy wrote his music. By examining this framework, “… [we] enter into his world with infinitely more subtlety and comprehension [by placing] ourselves in his universe” (p. xxix). Kautsky provides layers of context for Debussy’s world and music: philosophical, aesthetic and artistic, cultural and historical, even sociological and gender roles. The rich and densely woven text requires close reading for the nuanced, lively detail that transports the reader to the Parisian Belle Époque, the period lasting from 1871 to 1914.
The book begins with a condensed biography of Debussy. Topics covered in the thirteen main chapters span a wide and dizzying array of subjects. Beginning with the significance of the Commedia dell’arte and Pierrot, the reader learns of the allure of masks, circuses, dance, the cakewalk, and minstrel shows during the Parisian Belle Époque. We read of Debussy’s fascination with the Orient, including Africa, Spain, and Greece, as well as Southeast Asia. We are thrilled by the fantastical and imaginative worlds of children’s make-believe and fairy tales, dreams and enchantment, the magical sway of water and the creatures found therein. And, perhaps surprisingly, we discover Edgar Allan Poe as an inspiration, in addition to the growing influence of French identity and nationalism.
Though “[much] of this book strays from musical analysis and meanders through historical and social phenomena” (p. xxix), musical examples of Debussy’s piano works appear throughout, including references to some lesser known works. Kautsky quotes extensively from Debussy’s own writings and letters, providing a fascinating glimpse into his personal history. Debussy’s Paris is replete with evocative artworks. Replicas of famous and not-so-famous paintings illustrate points and complement the text, though they are all in black and white, and might be too small to see all of the intricate details. The supplemental material on the marvelous corresponding website ( is a veritable treasure trove of wonders, with poetry, artistic images, additional text, and links to recordings by Kautsky and others.
Kautsky acknowledges from the outset that she is a performer. Nevertheless, Debussy’s Paris reminds me of a wonderfully rich, interdisciplinary graduate level musicology class—the gorgeously written, colorful prose that is vividly presented immerses the reader in the Parisian Belle Époque and the culture that inspired Debussy. After reading this book I have a deeper and more holistic understanding of Debussy’s world—his influences, contemporaries, and artistic and musical philosophies.” — Summer, 2019 Clavier Companion (Ann DuHamel)

September 2014–CD of the complete Debussy Preludes released by Centaur Records:

“Debussy that’s just right.”
“Kautsky’s intelligent and insightful Debussy artistry,”
Classics Today (Jed Distler)
“brings out all the power, majesty, and mystery of Debussy’s conception”
Phil’s Classical Reviews, Audio Video Club of Atlanta

“A pianist who can play Mozart and Schubert as though their sentiments and habits of speech coincided exactly with hers…She gave these pieces nuances that made them meaningful on a human everyday level. The music spoke directly to the listener, with neither obfuscation nor pretense.”
The New York Times

Catherine Kautsky… plays with rhythmic zest combined with meticulous care for performing instructions… and shows both sensitivity and strength in pretty well ideal proportions…Excellent Babar.
— Fanfare

“Kautsky dazzled a Y Music Society Audience.”
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Pianist Catherine Kautsky was a helpful and sympathetic partner.”
— Washington Post

“Catherine Kautsky’s magnificent piano recital added a page to the history of music in Pittsburgh &,dash; At every moment it was clear that this was major league piano playing; mature, thoughtful, intense, and songful.”
— Pittsburgh Public Radio

“Her playing was that of a mature artist &,dash; characterized by an intensely controlled rhythmic excitement…stupendous dynamic range.”
— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Witness…pianist Kautsky’s impassioned fervor”
— Chicago Tribune

“It was a careful, arching convincing performance.”
— Newsday

“Catherine Kautsky’s elegant performance of the [Mozart] Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 487, was the focal point of the program…A player with a keen appreciation of musical value…shape and color…admirable clarity, she combined delicacy and diversity with commendable artistry.”
St. Louis Globe Democrat 

“Catherine Kautsky’s gleaming tone, pointed articulation, free-wheeling momentum and snapped-into place rhythm were just the things for Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1….cadenza as vivid and surreal and funny as Toon Town.”
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Pianist Catherine Kautsky made a fine case for the Shostakovitch Piano Concerto No. 1. She inspired a lively interplay between the piano and violins in the first movement, carefully monitored the somber expression of the slow movement, and enlivened the concluding Allegro with lithe fingerwork.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Kautsky played with great power, solidly secure technique, and a keen sensitivity in lyrical and expressive matters…with a touching sense of dynamic direction and shape.”
— The Isthmus (Madison, WI)

“deeply engrossed and talented musician.”
— Sun City News Sun (Sun City, Ariz.) 

“Catherine Kautsky, WCO’s [Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s] internationally known pianist, delivered one of those rare performances; brilliance personified.”
— Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

“Catherine Kautsky made a highly successful debut as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb Major, Op. 19… Kautsky…found exactly the right framework for a reading that was strong and lithe…[she] is an imaginative pianist…[and]her technique is substantial &, dash; each note was clearly articulated, passages pearled out smoothly.”
— Door County Advocate (Door County, WI)

“Kautsky played the concerto [Beethoven Concerto No. 3 in C Minor] with power and confidence…fine bravura technique.”
— Post-Crescent (Appleton, WI)

“Storyteller and classical pianist Catherine Kautsky paints pictures for the mind…unusual, often evocative album.”
— Parents Choice

“Extraordinary perception and outstanding technique…She brought a sensitivity of touch that met each musical need…Very fine, always utterly apt playing.”
— Door County Advocate (Door County, WI)