Christian Erny Plays Arthur Lourié

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LOURIÉ: 5 Préludes Fragiles. Valse. 2 Estampes. Intermezzo. Petite Suite in F. Gigue. Nocturne. Lullaby / Christian Erny, pno / Ars Produktion 382486

Arthur Lourié, the Russian composer with the French name, started out as an enthusiastic supporter of cultural life in the new Soviet Union but, like most Socialist and Communist societies, it began to erode people’s freedoms and opportunities early on, and by the early 1920s it had also eroded the arts. Lourié fled to France, where he became an assistant of Igor Stravinsky’s, and continued to write interesting works for the rest of his life, yet never achieved wide exposure or popularity.

All of Lourié’s piano music has been recorded by the great pianist Giorgio Koukl, but I was interested to hear how young Christian Erny approached them. As I noted in my review of Koukl’s performances, he stripped the music of much of its impressionistic character, clearly revealing its similarity to the music of Alexander Scriabin, who Lourié had known and heard prior to that composer’s death in 1915. Erny restores this impressionistic feeling, particularly in the 5 Préludes Fragiles, lovingly caressing each note and phrase with tenderness and warmth. His rich, deep-in-the-keys touch is perfect for this style, imbuing each piece with a warm glow. The notes of the third prelude fall on the ear like slow, warm raindrops.

Erny also introduces somewhat more rubato into the Valse, bringing Lourié’s aesthetic closer to Ravel than to Scriabin, but this, too, works in a different way. There’s a bit of a “danse macabre” feeling to the way he plays it which I found quite interesting. In the first of the two Estampes, he also does a nice job of suggesting the music’s fragmentary, somewhat deconstructive nature.

Indeed, if anything, Erny brings out not only the impressionistic side of Lourié but also his playful side, particularly in the Petite Suite. His Scriabin resemblance comes to the fore in the somewhat grotesque Gigue, with its incessant rhythms and louder sound profile.

All in all, an interesting disc. Although I still prefer Koukl’s “take” on the music, young Erny certainly has his own way with it, and it’s a very valid approach.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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