Meet Mickey Katz

WPO Opens 31st Season with Very Special Soloist
by Karen Walz

The WPO is about to celebrate the start of our 31st season with “Herbert and Brahms: Lyrical Duo” on Sunday, October 30th, 3:00 p.m. (plus, 2:30 pre-concert lecture). We’re especially pleased to present our guest soloist, Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Mickey Katz. Below is just a brief bio of his many accomplishments and outstanding status:

Mickey-Katz-Betsy-BassettMickey Katz joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in September 2004. A native of Israel, he has distinguished himself as a solo performer, chamber musician, and contemporary music specialist. He received the Presser Music Award in Boston, the Karl Zeise Prize as a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow, and won first prizes at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Competition and the Rubin Academy Competition in Tel Aviv. He has been a recipient of the America Israel Cultural foundation scholarships since 1988. As soloist, he has performed with several Israeli orchestras and locally with the Civic Symphony of Boston, Symphony Pro Musica, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic.

I asked Mickey to tell us more about himself, and how his path (and our good fortune!) led him to become a featured WPO soloist.

The WPO is very pleased and excited to have you as a guest soloist.  Tell us how you came to know us, and your decision to play in our new season’s opening concert.

I heard about the WPO from my colleague [violinist] Victor Romanul who played with the group last year [as guest soloist] and enjoyed it. Much to my surprise, I discovered that [WPO Music Director] Michael Korn and I studied in Tel Aviv at the same time and had many friends in common. We must have crossed paths many times before, but now we’ll get to make music together for the first time!

You’re a native of Israel and became a noted cellist with the BSO. Can you give us some background on how you came to the U.S. and your musical journey?

When I was finishing my military service in Israel I knew I wanted to continue my studies in the US. My teacher there made the connection with [former president] Laurence Lesser at NEC, which turned out to be a great match. After school I was trying to figure out where to go next, and luckily won my audition with the BSO, so I got to stay in this wonderful city.

You’re very passionate about new and contemporary music. On October 30th, you’ll be playing Herbert’s Cello Concerto No. 2. How do you feel about Herbert and other classical composers of his and earlier eras? Why is it important that these works remain in orchestras’ repertoires? 

Of course, we play music from many periods because it communicates an emotional content, something we want to share with the audience because it touches us, and hope it will do the same to them, regardless of the style or when the music was written.

The Herbert piece is a special one; it’s so outwardly emotional and honest, a piece in the old style that is not known enough today. Herbert was a true romantic, and was hugely popular for writing operettas, the precursor of the Broadway show. His music is so passionate, with one of the most beautiful slow movements ever written, that I’m sure it will be a revelation for the audience.

You have stated that the hall in which an orchestra plays affects the acoustics and overall sounds of the pieces played.  Can pieces also come across well in a place like a middle school, where the WPO plays? If so, how?

I’m very spoiled playing regularly in Symphony Hall, which is recognized as having some of the best acoustics in the world. But we can’t always play in the same place! I love performing in new places and going out to the community to play where they live, too. If the playing is committed and honest, there can be a great musical experience anywhere.

You’ve been involved in teaching /mentoring kids in classical studies. Can you tell us more about that, and how it’s affected your career?

I do teach and love it. Between the BSO and my family, I haven’t done it much, but as my kids get older I expect teaching to take up a bigger part of my life.

You speak so enthusiastically about one of my favorite subjects:  Food!  You love to cook and shop for interesting produce and ingredients.  Tell us more about that. 

Yes, I love cooking, and I get a little obsessive about it, planning the week’s menu long in advance, going out of my way to find ingredients and researching new recipes and cuisines. I’m lucky to live near Waltham with its wealth of ethnic markets and restaurants; they inspire me to always look around and try new things.

Looks like Mickey Katz has given us a great recipe for wonderful music on a Sunday afternoon!  Join us at 2:30 pm for the pre-concert lecture!