Women & War & Peace / Katelyn Bouska
A highly interesting program, made attractive by sensitive interpretations.
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 omen 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. 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.
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. »
Now the album opens with a work by Caroline Shaw Gustave Le Gray, which is not related to the subject of the CD. It takes inspiration « from the darkroom exposure of a photograph, hinting at depths before they are actually visible. » The depth here is Chopin’s famous Mazurka in A Minor, which is the focus in a more searching music which frames the piece by Chopin. This makes 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 (1789–1831), 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 CD 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 (1941–2017) uses a more modern tonal language in her five-part work Prague Imaginations, but 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.
-- Pizzicato (Remy Franck)
Release Date: February 10, 2023
Catalog Number: YAR54460
Label: Yarlung Records
Number of Discs: 1
Composer: Vitezslava Kapralova, Ivana Loudova, Ruth Schoental, Caroline Shaw, Marie Szymanowska, Ludmila Yurina
Performer: Katelyn Bouska