Canto Oscuro

Anna Gourari

EN / DE

Anna Gourari is a young 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 debut, Gourari offers a set of Canto Oscuro: dark songs. The pianist 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. Gourari 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 and haunting, a very much “dark song”.

Anna Gourari ist eine junge Musikerin, die von der traditionsreichen russischen Klavierschule durchdrungen ist, von deren technischen Wahrheiten und deren Alte-Welt-Glamour. Sie habe eine „sehr physische Qualität in ihrem Spiel, die den Klang solcher Figuren aus den Goldenen Zeiten wie Horowitz und Cortot heraufbeschwört”, erklärte das Magazin „Fanfare“. Auf ihrem programmatsich betitelten ECM-Debüt „Canto Oscuro“offeriert Gourari eine Auswahl von „dunklen“ Gesängen. Die Pianistin bietet zwei der anrührendsten Choralpräludien von J.S. Bach dar – “Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ” und “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland” – in den sublimen Arrangements von Ferruccio Busoni. Gourari schließt hier auch Busonis ikonische Fassung der packenden Chaconne aus Bach’s Partita für Violine solo Nr. 2 d-moll an. Aus ihrer russischen Heimat stammen Alexander Silotis Transkription eines Bachs Präludiums und Sofia Gubaidulinas frühe Chaconne, eine Art Geisterschiff für den Barock. Das Kernstück des Albums bildet Paul Hindemiths Suite “1922”, ein Werk, das sowohl vom Barock als auch vom Jazz-Zeitalter beeinflusst ist; seine “Shimmy”, bzw. “Boston” und “Ragtime” betitelten Sätze erhalten hier einen dissonanten, düster ironischen Schimmer, und das “Nachtstück” der Suite erscheint als wahrhaft ruhelose und schwermütige Nachtmusik”.
Featured Artists Recorded

May 2011, Reitstadel, Neumarkt

Original Release Date

2012-09-28

  • 1Choralvorspiel "Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ", BWV 639
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
    03:39
  • 2Chaconne
    (Sofia Gubaidulina)
    11:45
  • "1922" - Suite für Klavier
    (Paul Hindemith)
  • 3Marsch (5 Hutchinsons 5, Luft-Akt)01:46
  • 4Shimmy03:42
  • 5Nachtstück05:17
  • 6Boston05:15
  • 7Ragtime02:17
  • 8Choralvorspiel "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland", BWV 659
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
    05:31
  • 9Chaconne (aus der Partita für Violine solo in d-moll, BWV 1004)
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
    16:20
  • 10Prélude in h-moll
    (Johann Sebastian Bach)
    03:39
“The marvel of Gourari’s playing is the combination of intuitive pacing, propulsive phrasing and rhythmic inflection that makes music spring to life with explosive power. The melding of physicality and thoughtfulness arises again and again – every note has a purpose.” — Fanfare


Anna Gourari is a young musician steeped in the venerable Russian piano school. The great pianist Alexis Weissenberg found her playing “almost mystical” when he was on the jury with Martha Argerich, Vladmir Ashkenazy and Nelson Freire that deemed Gourari winner of the Clara Schumann Piano Competition in 1994. 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 magazine. With her ECM 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. The pianist also includes Busoni’s iconic version of the gripping Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin. From her native Russia, Gourari adds pianist Alexander Siloti’s transcription of Bach’s celestial Prelude in B minor, as well as Sofia Gubaidulina’s early Chaconne, a late 20th-century vessel for ghosts of the Baroque. The album’s centerpiece is Hindemith’s Suite “1922,” a work influenced by both Baroque forms and dances of 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.”

About the program, Gourari says: “Bach is a musical god for all of us. I can hardly imagine that someone wouldn’t adore him and his genius. I have been studying and playing a lot of his music: the Partitas, the Suites, The Well-Tempered Clavier. But along with all of his instrumental works, I have always loved his chorales. Busoni’s transcriptions are the ideal way for me not only to love this music but to play it, too. To me, Busoni’s transcriptions are incredibly intelligent and emotionally touching. One can hear Busoni’s devotion to Bach in every bar, and it took someone of Busoni’s historic stature – being a wonderful pianist, experienced composer and singular personality – to make arrangements such as these.”

For Gourari, combining the Bach-Busoni Chaconne on a recording with Sofia Gubaidulina’s Chaconne of 1962 has been a long-held desire. She says: “There are obvious influences from Bach in Gubaidulina’s work, but also from Busoni. Her piece has been dear to me since I was 16 years old. I have had the honor of meeting her several times, including working with her in Switzerland a few years ago. I think Gubaidulina’s Chaconne is one of those timeless works of art that will be played 100 years from now and beyond.”

At first glance, it might appear that Hindemith’s Suite “1922” is an odd man out in this program. Yet the early 20th century was a “dark age,” after all, something that the composer undoubtedly sought to convey with black sarcasm in his treatment of several popular dances from the 1920s, as he twisted them into what Gourari calls a “fantastic” – and perhaps from our vantage, phantasmal – neo-Baroque suite. Gourari adds: “Dark songs are not necessarily quiet. . .”