Catalin Serban
© Andrej Grilc


Catalin Serban is a pianist who knows how to delight audiences with rare directness and depth of interpretation. His impressive musical message is characterized by subtle emotionality coupled with technical brilliance, virtuosity and transparency.

Born in Bucharest, Serban was deeply influenced throughout his musical development by his familiar connection to singing and his strong affinity for the music of the Romantic and early modern periods, elements of which unmistakably run through his performances.

In solo recitals, as a chamber musician and as a soloist with orchestra, Catalin Serban maintains a wide range of international concert activities and has performed in well-known concert halls, such as the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Bucharest Athenaeum, the Bremer Glocke, and the Stadtcasino Basel. A striking common feature of his concert programs, CD recordings, and radio recordings is the demanding music he selects to perform from his diverse repertoire. Even though he excels in all genres and musical eras, Serban focuses in particular on romantic and post-romantic piano and chamber music. He likes the challenge, which he meets ”outstandingly equipped technically … with enormous brilliance and modest virtuosity” (Badische Zeitung) as if it were self-evident. What he finds most important and interesting about this complex musical literature is its condensed, multi-layered message.

In recent years, Catalin Serban has intensified his chamber music activities. Invited to various music festivals, including the Beethoven Festival, the Brahms Festival Lübeck, the Franconian Chamber Music Days and the Oberstdorf Music Summer, he is now the initiator and artistic director of the young chamber music festival ”Spielende Insel”, which took place on the island of Rügen for the third time in 2023. It unites first-class young and experienced musicians, and is currently establishing itself among ambitious and virtuosic festival programs. The project aims to create a cultural and musical ”island”, where musicians and chamber music lovers can interact and discover new horizons.

Here the pianist Catalin Serban must be mentioned first, who, especially when performing Liszt’s first Mephisto waltz with bravura and an almost demonic possession, reminds one of Horowitz’s late performance at Carnegie Hall.“

Lübecker Nachrichten

At a very young age, Catalin Serban began his musical education at the ”George Enescu Music High School” in Bucharest. By the time he went to Berlin to study music, he could already look back on successes in national and international piano competitions and was celebrated by critics as a representative of the young generation of musicians. His virtuosity, the ”delicate and clear reproduction…” and the ”complexity of his expressiveness” (G. Constantinescu, President of the Music Critics Union of Romania), were noticed and appreciated even then. ”The young Romanian…” received similar attention in Germany where he was praised for the ”breathing, songful suppleness” (taz) of his performance at the European Piano Contest Bremen. The young prizewinner also received scholarships from several foundations and got much support from his mentors at the Berlin University of Arts and the University of Music Lübeck, who included Professors Martin Hughes and Konrad Elser. He received further artistic impulse in master classes with Professors Claude Frank, György Sebök, Pascal Devoyon, Théodore Paraskivesco and Elena Lapitskaja.

In addition to his concert activities, Catalin Serban now dedicates himself as a lecturer to young musicians at the Lübeck University of Music and at the Hanns Eisler University of Music in Berlin.

In his CD recordings, Serban opens up new spaces by juxtaposing certain composers, as in the album ”Des cloches sonores” (2018), where the late romantic contemporaries Enescu and Scriabin meet Schubert; and especially in his current album, ”Resemblances” (2022), in which he weaves works by Chopin and Scriabin into a double portrait. ”Scriabin seems to me like a continuation of what Chopin developed,” says Serban. The aim is to convey a musical imagination of the multicolored emotional world of the compositions, being so similar and yet so different. As a confirmation of Serban’s success in transforming his intentions into the listening experience, here are some critical reactions to the ”Resemblances” CD: ”The tonal colors are wonderfully diverse” (Bechstein); ”piano playing full of energy and expressiveness” with ”power and dynamics rich in contrast” (piano news).

These efforts will be continued with the recording ”Mélodies infinies”, which will be released in early 2024 on the Naxos label. Here one will hear piano quartets by Enescu and his teacher Fauré, performed by Suyeon Kang, Karolina Errera, Andrei Ionita and Catalin Serban. Upcoming projects include Rachmaninoff’s 9 Études-Tableaux Op. 39 and his Cello Sonata Op. 19, and even more exciting repertoire for the next festival.

© Andrej Grilc