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Meridian releases an imaginative dance-inspired recording by Katarzyna Musiał

Pianist Katarzyna Musiał in a concert performance with an unidentified chamber orchestra
Pianist Katarzyna Musiał in a concert performance with an unidentified chamber orchestra
from Katarzyna Musiał's Web site

At the beginning of this year, the British Meridian label released a solo recording of Polish-Canadian pianist Katarzyna Musiał entitled Come Dance With Me. This is a diverse program of selections composed relatively early in the twentieth century by composers from both Europe and the Americas. Not all of the compositions are, strictly speaking, dance music; but they are all characterized by an energetic sense of rhythm. The selections that are not explicitly dances could easily inspire an imaginative choreographer.

The entire album is framed by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. It begins with the three dances of his Opus 2 Danzas Argentinas and concludes with his suite of five Creole dances. Most of the pieces that are not dances are preludes. These include the first and last of the eight preludes that Olivier Messiaen composed in 1928 (his earliest works for piano), “Prélude romantiques” by the Quebecois pianist André Mathieu, the last of American George Gershwin’s three solo piano preludes, and Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s Opus 1 set of four preludes, the latest work in the collection, having been composed in 1955, but significantly different from the meditative rhetoric associated with his more mature works, such as his third symphony. In addition the two dances provided by Spanish composer Federico Mompou come from his fifteen Cançons i Danses couplings, the first and the sixth. The remaining selections are two works by Ernesto Lecuona (the familiar “Malagueña” and “La Comparsa”) and three short dances (two of which are mazurkas) by the Polish composer Zygmunt Stojowski.

Taken as a whole, this is an album of proficient execution that quickly engages the listener. The decision to begin and end with Ginastera was particularly suitable, since his imaginative approaches to rhythm, in which he brings his own twists to traditional patterns, quickly draw the attention of serious listener. Equally engaging is the way in which Musiał alternates composers of distinctively different cultural backgrounds.

I was, however, a bit puzzled by her decision to call the Gershwin prelude (Allegro ben ritmato e deciso in E-flat minor) the “Spanish Prelude.” This was not Gershwin’s label. It seems to have been assigned by early listeners who felt the need to call it something; but the tropes, particularly in the middle section, owe more to all-American jazz at its hottest. Perhaps if Musiał had not been preoccupied with a “Spanish connection,” she would have approached this prelude with fewer inhibitions and a bit more wild abandon.