Anna Gourari is a prize-winning musician steeped in the venerable Russian piano school, its technical verities and Old World glamour. She has "a very physical, even visceral quality to her music-making that conjures the sound of such golden-age figures as Horowitz and Cortot," declared Fanfare. With her ECM New Series debut, Gourari offers a set of Canto Oscuro: dark songs, from the Baroque to the fin-de-siècle, from the Jazz Age to the late 20th century.
Recorded in an acoustically ideal hall for solo piano - the Historischer Reitstadel, Neumarkt, Germany - Gourari performs two of the most affecting of J.S. Bach's chorale preludes - 'Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ' and 'Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland' - in arrangements of quiet sublimity by Ferrucio Busoni. She also includes his iconic version of the gripping Chaconne from Bach's Partita No. 2 for solo violin. From her native Russia, she adds Alexander Siloti's transcription of Bach's Prelude in B minor, as well as Sofia Gubaidulina's early Chaconne, a vessel for ghosts of the Baroque.
The album's centrepiece is Hindemith's Suite '1922', a work influenced by both Baroque models and the Jazz Age; yet its "Shimmy", "Boston" and "Ragtime" movements are given a dissonant, darkly ironic cast, and the Suite's "Nachtstück" is night music as haunted as it is haunting, very much "dark song".
Early in her career Anna Gourari won first prizes in the Kabalevsky Competition in Russia and the Chopin Competition in Göttingen. Following study in Munich, she won the Clara Schumann Piano Competition, leading to her working with conductors Colin Davis, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Iván Fischer. Her discography includes Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Scriabin, as well as Zemlinsky, Bartók, Prokofiev and Poulenc. She is known for her performances of contemporary scores by Sofia Gubaidulina, Rodion Shchedrin and Jörg Widmann. At the invitation of Werner Herzog, the pianist has worked also as an actress - she portrayed a key character in his 2001 film 'Invincible'.
Personnel: Anna Gourari (piano)