Music Reviews

Review: Yarlung Records “Women and War and Peace”

Instantly Serving the Discerning Music Lover

At a time when ‘streaming’ has become the norm, some courageous labels continue to serving the small market of discerning music lovers with the best attainable quality in high resolution. Yarlung Records is such a label. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against streaming. The (internet) radio fills a large part of my day, with a personal (undisclosed) preference for WKAR (Michigan State University, East Lansing, classical). However, for serious listening, only the best will do. Although I, and probably many others, are still old-fashioned enough to want to have a physical product, downloading has the enormous advantage of not having to wait for the postman to deliver (or not, as sometimes happens) a new and much anticipated SACD. Thanks to a dedicated site like Native DSD, instant service has become a real alternative.

From Poland to Ukraine: A female portrait of 200 years of European Wars

So, here we are. I have downloaded Yarlung’s latest contribution to the niche market: WOMEN and WAR and PEACE, an intriguing title. Especially now that a part of Europe is once more under siege. According to the executive producers, Evan Flaschen and & Patrick Trostle, this release is about “performing works by women composers displaced or destroyed by 200 years of European wars”. All of it was new to me: The label, the pianist, and the music. That does not happen so often. It made me all the more curious.

About the Label

Unlike some commercial giants, Yarlung has a philosophy that appeals very much to me. Not recording a handful of well-known artists or reissuing remastered stuff of the past, but bringing “fresh musicians to the classical music world” and in doing so with “sound as close to living performance as possible”. 

About the Pianist

Katelyn Bouska is a “lightning-smart academic at Curtis Institute”, says Patrick. This Czech-American researcher “spends many months a year performing and lecturing in Prague”, so we learn from the liner notes. Her speciality: Central and Eastern European composers. This brings us to…

The Music

Spanning two centuries from Maria Szymanowska (Poland), who died in 1830 from cholera, instigated by Russia’s invasion of Poland under Tsar Nicholas, to Ludmila Yurina (Ukraine), who fled her home in February 2022, following Russia’s invasion by the would-be Tsar, Vladimir Putin. Most of these compositions, if not all, are hitherto unknown.

Katelyn Bouska may be a lightning-smart academic, she’s an excellent pianist as well. Probably not a household name for everyone, but still an artist with a charismatic influence, able to “engaging audiences in the musical dialogue”. It would seem to me, however, that it is not solely the artistry that counts. Although the recording dates from before the Russian attack on Ukraine, under the current circumstances it is a painful reminder of the brutal consequences of unprovoked aggression. 

A Valuable Document that needs Further Exploring

The various and varying pieces of Katelyn’s recital are obviously not all of the same standard. But here, too, it is in my view more about the importance of exploring a valuable musical document than getting a whole range of re-discovered masterpieces. Some are good, others are better. Nonetheless, all of them are evenly well played by Paní Bouska. Track one was a surprise. Chopin? Yes, but. After a somewhat brooding start, the Polish composer enters somewhere in the middle of Caroline Shaw’s ‘Gustave Le Gray’, paying tribute to Chopin’s wistful A minor Mazurka developing into a personalized version. There is more Mazurey on track 2, but this time it is Kate’s own arrangement of some of Szymanowska’s elegant Mazurkas. 

Rather than delving into each of the compositions I recommend reading the producer’s liner notes. In doing so, one gets in-depth information about the rest of the works and all the other female composers, thus broadening our scope and knowledge of Central and Eastern European composing, which after all is Bouska’s field of research at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. 

Putting things together, Katelyn and Yarlung provide us with a valuable document that needs to be further explored, and the producers should be commended for their continuing effort to produce the best in terms of culture and sound, as well as for giving artists such as Katelyn Bouska a real chance to shine.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2023 Adrian Quanjer and

Written by

Adrian Quanjer

Adrian Quanjer is a site reviewer at HRAudio, with many years of experience in classical music. He writes from his country retreat at Blangy-le-Château, France. As a regular concertgoer, he prefers listening to music in the highest possible resolution to recreate similar involvement at home. He is eager to share his thoughts with like-minded melomaniacs at NativeDSD.


  1. Ordered the x64 5ch version and downloaded.

    The 3rd track Fantaisie had the last quarter of song empty.(blank but would play with no sound) ALso checked spectrogram and downloaded several times to confirm.

    Support notified, waiting for fix.

    Comment by terry clausen on September 9, 2023 at 05:47

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