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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Arthur Lourie, Solo Piano Works, Moritz Ernst, 3-CD Set

The coldest "feeling" day of the year here raises questions about reality that the weatherman glibly ignores. It "feels" like x (wind-chill factor), yet it isn't. Similarly to say that the Solo Piano Works (Capriccio 3-CD C5281) by Arthur Lourie (1891-1966) "feel" somewhat akin to a post-romantic melange of late Scriabin, something of classic Debussy, proto-Messiaen and on the other hand a rather neo-classical conciseness, it is not so much a question of proof, which helps little as does the actual temperature on a day like today.

A statistical analysis of harmonic and melodic sequences would lead you into a no-man's land of correlations or the lack, which is to say that "feel" and "actuality" may be two different things, and the discrepancy between the two makes for originality, or it does in part. To map out the actual grammatic sequence of a great poem is not necessarily any guarantee of the poem's deep structure and meaning. Thankfully my job here is not to supply the reader with endless tables of sequence, for in the end we listeners go more with "feel" than anything else, and that nebulous territory beyond actuality is what in part gives us pleasure and makes listening a very personal thing, doesn't it?

All that explains something of why I find Arthur Lourie's solo piano music in the hands of  Moritz Ernst a thing of beauty. The comprehensive 3-CD set takes us from 1908 and his Debussy-Scriabin period through to a more modernist parallel-Messiaenic phase and finally to a crisp neo-classicism and a further beyond by 1938. The set ends with a somewhat extended work for piano and narrator (Oskar Ansull) ("Death's Mistake"), which is the more interesting if you know German well, less so otherwise.

In the end  Lourie's love for, and immersion in the sensuous properties of the solo pianoforte mark him as a composer of merit and a deeply pianistic poeticism.  His stylistically varying output may have made him difficult to pigeonhole during his lifetime, but we can listen today with no expectations and experience the music as a set of wonderful surprises.

So for the piano lover out there, here is one you will linger on and continue to uncover joyously unexpected "feels" that run deep. Very recommended for all that.

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