Arthur LOURIÉ (1892-1966)
Songs and choruses:
Le Chapelet/Rosary (Plaisanterie/Pleasantry [1:10]; Commémoration [4:10]; Ocarina [2:30]; Langueur/Languor [1:50]; Tchastouchka [1:25])
La Voix de la Muse/The Voice of the Muse (Tu Es Pesant, Souvenir d'Amour/You Are Heavy, Memory of Love [2:50]; On M'a Jeté Tant de Pierres?/They Have Thrown So Many Stones At Me [3:05])
Quasi Valse [2:50]
Deux Mazurkas No. 1 [2:24]; No. 2 [3:01]
Incantations (Extraits du 'Poemè sans Héros'/Poem without Heroes) [4:20]
Lamentations de la Vierge (Texte francais du XIII siècle)/The Virgin's Lament (13th Century Text) [13:35]
Trois Rois Mages/Three Wise Kings [2:00]
Dans Le Sanctuaire d'un Rêve Doré/In The Sanctuary of a Golden Dream: (Dans Les Champs Tu T'éloignas/In The Fields You Went Away [7:20]; Une Vie Qui Se Consume Dans Le Choeur/A Life That is ... [5:10]; Du Royaume Du Sommeil/From The Realm of Sleep [7:10])
Natalia Gerassimova (soprano); Vladimir Talanov (violin); Alexandre Talanov (violin); Alexandre Roudine (cello); Vladimir Skanavi (piano); Igor Bogouslavsky (alto); Olga Boulanova (alto); Russian Chamber Choir/Tamara Piliptchuk
rec. 1994, Moscow

St Petersburg-born Russian-Jewish composer Arthur-Vincent Lourié was one of Soviet Russia’s futurists. Such bourgeois experimentation was rejected by the ideologues and he fled Russia to Paris. He lived out his days there until the Nazi occupation which drove him to the USA where by his own admission his career lay in a ditch.

He was much taken with the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and set a number of her poems. Le Chapelet and La Voix de la Muse are Akhmatova settings from 1914. These songs move from ferociously hearty optimism to the doom and incense of Roslavets to a folksy Canteloube-style pastoral innocence. Incantations (1959) is a further sophisticated and hypnotic Akhmatova song. They’re all beautifully sung by Gerassimova. The Two Mazurkas are subtle and pearly impressionistic piano pieces which at some points you might link with William Baines and Scriabin. Lamentations de la Vierge is a song-cycle with string trio. The mix here is rich impressionism, spiky expressionist melodrama and a lyricism worthy of Rachmaninov – certainly very Russian and a successful synthesis of influences completed resolved. Trois Rois Mages with its glinting piano returns us to Russian fairytale. The truly magical Dans Le Sanctuaire d'un Rêve Doré (1919) is for soprano and mixed choir. This is a work of mysteries, devotional fervour, swaying censers, smoky introspection and ululating drifting tenderness. There’s something of Warlock’s Corpus Christi about it too. The last of the three panels in this cantata is Du royaume du sommeil; it is the most revolutionary music with its great blocks of throbbing choral sound. This must be heard if for example you enjoy the Rachmaninov Vespers.

It should not be forgotten that Lourié also wrote larger-scale works. These include the Symphony No.1 Dialectica. The Symphony No.2 Kormtschaya (1936) was taken up by Ansermet and the OSR in 1948. His Feast During the Plague opera-ballet was presented in Boston by Koussevitsky in 1945. More recently his Concerto Spirituale (1929) was championed by Viktoria Postnikova with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky.

Much more there to be discovered so I hope that there will be successors to this very satisfying and challengingly pleasing disc. It’s very well annotated by Malcolm Macdonald. No texts provided.

Rob Barnett

This very satisfying and challengingly pleasing disc.