Notes and Editorial Reviews
CANTO OSCURO • Anna Gourari (pn) • ECM 476 4661 (59:45)
BACH/BUSONI Ich ruf’ zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639. Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659. Chaconne in d (from the Partita for Violin Solo), BWV 1004. GUBAIDULINA Chaconne. HINDEMITH
class="ARIAL12bi">“1922” Suite für klavier. BACH/SILOTI Prelude in b
Virtually every concept album from ECM that has passed through my hands over the last several years has, at the least, been a fascinating experience in terms of the works programmed; at their best, they have in addition featured first-rate performances by some of today’s best and most individually minded artists. The current release is no different. Though if at first I was not taken by some of the individual performances, it was because I was listening to them separately, often in comparison to other recordings in my collection. That was my mistake, for as soon as I put the album on and listened to it from beginning to end, I realized the folly of my ways. Beginning with the simple Bach-Busoni transcription of Ich ruf’ zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, Gourari imbues the recital with a mellowness and dark-hued aura; this opening informs the entire program. Gubaidulina’s Chaconne follows. It is stately, it is grand, it is dissonant at times, yet in the pianist’s capable hands it is a masterwork of refined textures and hauntingly beautiful lyrical strands. Though this performance could use a bit more bite—the accents in the quasi-fugal section could be ever sharper in effect and the rhythmic play that the composer carefully weaves into the fabric of the music could be more evident—her performance in the long run here just works.
Gourari saves the sprightly and jazzy for the Hindemith “1922” Suite für Klavier that follows. In her hands the work is playful, its outer movements rhythmic and quirky, yet the center of the work remains the evocative “Nachtstück.” The “Ragtime” movement that ends the suite brings the whole to a rousing and climactic conclusion. The Bach-Busoni transcription of Nun komm’ der Heiden Hieland provides a perfect foil for the rowdiness of the preceding music: It truly feels as though the Bach were an extension of the Hindemith it follows. It also provides the perfect lead-in for the following Bach-Busoni Chaconne, just as the first transcription did before the Gubaidulina. Though it is the pianist’s performance of this piece, in particular, which I at first did not like, it was only after listening to the rest of the recital that I became more aware of the effect for which she was aiming. Here the piece seems much more modern, less late-Romantic in approach: Its climaxes are still grand and sweeping, yet the whole feels much more fragmented than in most other performances. For Gourari, the Bach-Busoni seems like an extended suite of various textures and sonorities: Has the Gubaidulina provided the inspiration here? Very possibly. And will this type of performance always work? Surely not. But it works beautifully here. The final Bach-Siloti rounds off the recital perfectly. At first, the piece seemed more like an encore to me, but rather than an addendum to this recital, the piece works beautifully in bringing the whole back to the silence from whence it first came. With programming this fantastic, playing this attuned to the concept of the album, and ECM sound this vibrant, this is one of the albums of the year for me thus far. Grab it and enjoy. But be careful: It might just knock your socks off.
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Works on This Recording
Ciacona for Piano by Sofia Gubaidulina
Anna Gourari (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1962; USSR
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