Stereo & 5 Channel Surround Sound Pure DSD 256 recording available in Pure DSD exclusively at NativeDSD
Women and War and Peace took shape during concert pianist Katelyn Bouska’s darkest days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. She missed her family and friends, her students at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and her live performances in front of living breathing audiences.
To use the time productively, Bouska revisited women composers she wanted to explore and realized many of them shared a common theme. They were refugees, or they barely survived, or didn’t survive, and the fact that they were women at the cutting edge of the contemporary music scenes in their various environments made their situations even more difficult. Our earliest composer,
Maria Szymanowska, died in the 1830 cholera outbreak instigated by Russia’s invasion of Poland under Tsar Nicholas I. One of our younger composers, Ludmila Yurina, fled her home in Ukraine and found refuge first in the United Kingdom and then Germany after Russia’s invasion in February of 2022 by President Vladimir Putin.
Pianist Katelyn Bouska is both American and Czech. She was born in the United States, but spends many months a year performing and lecturing in Prague. Stretching from composers born in the 1700s through the 20th Century, Kate’s repertoire includes music by Caroline Shaw, Maria Szymanowska, Ruth Schoental, Ivana Loudova, Vitezslava Kapralova and Ludmila Yurina.
Katelyn Bouska – Piano
Total time: 01:23:23
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||February 10, 2023|
The stories behind these female composers are so sad yet compelling, or gripping and exciting, I will let you read the liner notes for yourself when you acquire the album. I will, instead, concentrate on the music and performance.
This album is a musical wonder. It is a journey through time for female composers, some recognized in their day, others not. The pieces are approachable and melodic. All are original and extraordinary.
The Pianist: Katelyn Bouska, is extremely talented and plays with superb sophistication. With so many styles among the composers, she interprets each with an originality that is very special. I wish she was touring in America. What a magnificent pianist!
Women of War and Peace is recorded in the purest possible way, sparing no expense. On a revealing system, the piano is in the room. This is very near the master tape sound with analog overtones. Textural cues are wonderful and rich. The piano image is solid and alive and exhibits no compression whatsoever. There is just enough ambiance and space to indicate a hall, with no sweetening.
This is a reference piano recording of the first order. If your system is exceptional, this may be the best piano album in your collection. Most highly recommended.
This is a brilliant new release by pianist Katelyn Bouska, recorded and mastered in Pure DSD256 by Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records. But what makes this recording truly special are the musical works selected and the stories of the composers, all women who were at the cutting edge of the contemporary music scenes in their various environments and were refugees, or barely survived, or didn’t survive the environments that made their situations so difficult…
Not only is Katelyn Bouska, who teaches at the Curtis Institute, a superb pianist, not only does this Pure DSD256 recording capture superbly the sound of her New York Steinway in the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, with it’s marvelous acoustics, not only are these compelling musical compositions, these are works by composers whose lives and stories need to be shared…
I have been listening and relistening to the music on this album for several days now. I continue to find new aspects of many of the works that bring me a new insight, tickle my fancy, give me joy. I mentioned this album to Ann over coffee. I told her I was quite taken by it and was writing a review. Later in the day, she poked her head around the corner to say, “That piano album you mentioned? I’ve been listening to it and and I’m totally intrigued by the music. The first track, by the younger American composer, is just amazing! I love what she has done in it—that slow unfolding start where one can’t figure quite where she is going, then the Chopin emerging, then the fading away. I love it. And the other works I’ve heard so far by the other women are great—working through a second listen now. Bye!” And she was gone…
(Discussion continues of each work in the album)
I am grateful to receive this gift of music and insights. This is simply a marvellous album. Most highly recommended!
At a time when Streaming music 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.
For serious listening, only the best will do. 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 album. Thanks to a dedicated site like Native DSD, instant service has become a real alternative.
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.
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 Jazz and Classical Music worlds” and in doing so with “sound as close to living performance as possible”.
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 specialty: Central and Eastern European composers.
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.
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 album that needs to be further explored. 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.
American-Czech pianist Katelyn Bouska plays works by composers sharing a common theme: “They were refugees, or they barely survived, or didn’t survive, and the fact that they were women at the cutting edge of the contemporary music scenes in their various environments made their situations.”
The album opens with a work by Caroline Shaw Gustave Le Gray, which is not related to the subject of the album. It takes inspiration “from the darkroom exposure of a photograph, hinting at depths before they are actually visible.”
Chopin’s famous Mazurka in A Minor is the focus in more searching music which frames the piece by Chopin. This provides an interesting opening, very atmospherically played by Katelyn Bouska. And in a certain sense it paves the way for the two chronologically oldest pieces, those by Maria Szymanowska, who died in the cholera outbreak started by Russia’s invasion of Poland under Tsar Nicholas I. It is beautiful music, very imaginative and personal and one can say that Katelyn Bouska really cares for the attractive melodies.
Ruth Schönthal’s Fragments from a Woman’s Diary is the longest piece on the album at 27 minutes. Born into a Jewish family in Hamburg in 1924, the composer managed to escape the Nazis and flee to the United States, where she died in 2006. Her composition is rich in contrasts, mixing styles and dark as well as bright memories, and in the end it is this mixture that makes the work so poignant.
Ivana Loudová uses a more modern tonal language in her five-part work Prague Imaginations. Just like Schönthal’s piece, it is very varied in the moods it describes. Katelyn Bouska has the right touch here, too, and plays with a gripping sensitivity.
Next comes the cheerful Dubnová preludia by Vítězslava Kaprálová, who died of lung disease in 1940 at the age of 25, following her evacuation from Paris during the Nazi advance.
The program ends with the stirring composition Shadows and Ghosts by, Ludmila Yurina, who fled her homeland, Ukraine, when Russia launched its barbaric war of aggression against that country in February 2022.
All this together forms a highly interesting program, which is also made attractive by the sensitive interpretations.
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