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Arthur Vincent LOURIÉ (c.1891-1966)
Complete Piano Works - Volume 2
Deux poèmes, op.8 (1912) [7:21]
Menuet nach Gluck (1914) [3:19]
Sintezï (Synthèses), op.16 (1914) [7:08]
Dnevnoj uzor (Daytime routine) (1915) [11:29]
Rojaľ v detskoj (Eight scenes of Russian childhood) (1917) [10:35]
Piano sonatina no.3 (1917) [3:23]
Toccata (1924) [5:08]
Valse (1926) [4:10]
Gigue (1927) [5:01]
Marche (1926) 2:30]
Nocturne (1928) [6:56]
Intermezzo (1928) [5:53]
Berçeuse de la chevrette (1936) [3:19]
Phoenix park nocturne (1938) [5:05]
Giorgio Koukl (piano)
rec.Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland, 2016
GRAND PIANO GP750 [81:18]

This volume rounds off Giorgio Koukl’s complete survey of the piano works of Arthur Vincent Lourié and is a further aid to rescuing the composer from relative obscurity (review of Volume 1). Lourié was one of those people who was a somewhat self-created chameleon which began with name changes; dropping his two Jewish forenames Naum Israilevich and taking Arthur (in homage to Schopenhauer) and Vincent (as a tribute to Van Gogh) and frenchifying his surname by changing it from Luria. In addition, he contrived to give himself the birthplace of St Petersburg rather than that which evidence tends to suggest was Propoysk (today Slawharad) a backwater in present day Belarus which has a population of less than 10,000 even now. On top of all this he had a tendency to fib about his age if he thought it would help him with either his amorous adventures (this also included converting to Catholicism in order to marry a Polish woman), postponing military service or otherwise advancing his career prospects so that we still cannot say with certainty whether he was born in 1891, 1892 or 1893. All this may very well have helped him while alive but it has made salvaging his music today even more of a challenge but at last this is being achieved thanks, in no small measure, to the likes of people like Giorgio Koukl who is an intrepid and single-minded researcher when it concerns someone he feels worthy of being brought back from the margins into the limelight. This disc is further proof that this is an enterprise is well worth pursuing.

Lourié, in common with many artists, musicians, composers and other intellectuals, was inspired by the 1917 revolution in Russia following which there were heady days of freedom of expression which was actively encouraged. However, amid the repression that began in the early twenties Lourié became disillusioned and eventually defected and settled in Paris following which his music was banned in Russia, a story too often repeated in relation to others who left, including people like Medtner.

Lourié’s music is wide ranging in mood varying from the dreamlike Essor from his Deux Poèmes written as early as 1912 which element is also evident in its accompanying piece Ivresse (intoxication or drunkenness) to the romantic as in Menuet nach Gluck (1914) which I thought had echoes of Schumann. That he experimented with more abstract melodies is shown in Sintezï from the same year as Menuet nach Gluck showing he didn’t allow himself to plough the same musical furrow, but rather that he liked to try out new and different approaches. He was still pursuing those ideas in Dnevnoj uzor (Daytime routine) from the year after. There is a Debussian feel to several of these pieces for, despite there being a slightly more ‘contemporary’ edge to them, there is an impressionist element too. Two years later with his Rojaľ v detskoj (Eight scenes of Russian childhood) his sense of playful humour is on show with these charming little vignettes; Lullaby being a particular favourite of mine after several playings. Then, from that same year comes his Sonatina no.3, a complete contrast with its austere sound world. Toccata from 1924 is in similar vein to begin with though later it does contain some softer elements too.

Lourié’s feel for the romantic resurfaces in Valse then comes his exciting Gigue which has a really catchy tune worthy of development and which has become my current earworm. Vladimir Horowitz was the recipient of his piece Marche which no doubt he used as encore material (I think the date given for it is a misprint and should read 1927). Lourié dedicated his richly melodic Nocturne to pianist Alfred Cortot and his Intermezzo to Denise Molié, a well-known interpreter of Debussy.

The final two offerings on the disc are Berçeuse de la chevrette (1936) and Phoenix Park nocturne (1938). Berçeuse de la chevrette (Lullaby for the Little Doe) reminded me a little of Satie in places with his ability to say so much with so few notes. Phoenix Park nocturne (dedicated after the writer’s death to the memory of James Joyce) is a return to the dreamlike, bringing us back full circle to that state so eloquently described in the opening Essor. It had echoes of Rachmaninov for me.

It is interesting to note that none of these pieces appear to be first recordings leading me to wonder when they were released on disc previously though the fact that I wasn’t aware of Lourié’s existence before Giorgio Koukl’s first volume means nothing since I am constantly coming across composers new to me, a source of continual delight. I am glad to have had the opportunity to hear so much of Lourié’s music which is so interesting and so tuneful and so varied it seems that he was a chameleon in more than just his assumed persona but in his music as well and it’s all the better for it; variety is the spice of music as well as of life itself. Giorgio Koukl is nothing if not a consistently impressive advocate of whichever composer’s music he takes it upon himself to focus on and I thoroughly recommend this disc to all lovers of solo piano music.

Steve Arloff 



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