December 10, 2021
Scenes from A Life (Navona 6386) is the title of the concluding work on this new release featuring music by composer Monika Gurak. Most of the album focuses on music for piano, but opens with a rather delightful set of 15 Humoresques for vibraphone and piano. The light nature of the pieces adds a whimsical opening to this album with a quality that is reminiscent perhaps of indie-comedy scoring. These are each rather brief pieces that have just a hint of melodic material that gets introduced and quickly ends. The vibraphone sometimes adds a jazzier quality to the music that flits along. The piano adds a touch of the emotional, wistful quality as the pieces bubble along.
The remainder of the album features music for piano four-hands. Romance Sonambulo would make for a nice little encore number with its engaging thematic writing, Spanish-inflected musical gestures and rhythms, and dramatic flair. Gurak's music tends to have a real song-like sensibility which makes these pieces quite accessible. A Story (2020) is a three-movement work that opens with a delicate introduction ("Awaiting") and then shifts into a more romantic ballad-like central movement that moves into a more exhilarating finale. Her Polish heritage is hinted at a bit in "My Country" where the melodies and musical gestures flirt with folk-like styles. But, the music is firmly in a modern romantic style, filled with lots of arpeggios and that keep the momentum flowing as the thematic material unfolds. This is especially true in the title work that closes off the album.
Gurak's music draws the listener in to what amounts to a gorgeous, romantic musical journey. Performances here by Emma Colette Moss and Scott Downing provide a touching interpretive approach.