Piers Lane is known for his work as piano soloist,
accompanist and broadcaster. His discography is wide-ranging, from accompanying
Russian Cello Sonatas (with Alexander Baillie on Unicorn UKCD2083) to
concertos by Myaskovsky, Paderewski (the debut disc of Hyperion's 'Romantic
Piano Concerto' series), d'Albert (CDA66747) and virtuoso Strauss transcriptions
(CDA66785). His disc of Scriabin Etudes (CDA66607) prepared the ground
for the present offering.
The virtuoso Romantic piano concerto recordings have
already alerted the public to Lane's colossal technique. Luckily, he
also demonstrates much musical intelligence, all of which is called
on in this project. Scriabin's Preludes chart the composer's journey
from post-Chopin Romantic to post-tonal harmonic mystic, and it is fascinating
to play the set straight through from that viewpoint. One can hear the
progressive expansion of expression until the composer's musical imagination
flies off in myriad, often previously uncharted directions.
Lane's account of the 24 Preludes, Op. 11 (1888-96)
moves into top recommendation slot, eclipsing both Pisarro and Pletnev.
The shifting moods are effortlessly captured, from the impetuous No.
14 in E flat minor through the veiled but threatening No. 16 in B flat
minor, the capricious No. 17 in A flat, the melancholy No. 10 in Csharp
minor, the very appassionato No. 20 in C minor to the climactic
sweep of No. 24 in D minor.
With the longer time span of Op. 13 No.1 (all of 2'30),
Scriabin gives the pianist the chance to build real cumulative effect,
an opportunity relished by Lane. Close references to the high-Romantic
period abound in these pieces: the fluid movement of Op. 15 No. 2 calls
to mind Chopin's A flat Impromptu, for example. Tellingly, Op. 15 No.
2 sits right next to the sweet, perfumed C sharp minor Andantino of
No. 3, proof (if proof be needed by this point) of the direction in
which Scriabin's thought was moving.
On this road, the Preludes which remind one strongly
of Chopin in dreamy mood (try either of the first two from Op. 22, for
example) give way to the more elusive sonorities more readily associated
with this composer, and it is in this sound world that Lane excels.
Time and time again I found that I did not need to look at the score's
indication to find out what it was because Lane projected it so well.
This is probably the highest praise I can give him, and the list of
such instances is impressively large (Op. 39 No. 3 - Languido; Op. 48
No. 2 - Poetico con delizio; Op. 35 No. 2, Elevato ...).
The later Preludes are fascinating documents of a composer
stretching expression to its limit, from the relentless Op. 59 No. 2
(marked 'sauvage') through to Op. 74 No. 5, the musical equivalent of
sleepless tossing and turning. There is often the impression given of
a mix of supreme improvisation generated by some hidden, mysterious
set of principles. The final Op. 74 set of Preludes (1914) is testament
to this, five expressions of a most private internal world (witness
the second, 'Très lent, contemplatif', during which Lane achieves
a magical pianissimo).
Certainly, for individual Preludes, there may be clear
first choices elsewhere (and every admirer of Scriabin should hear the
interpretations of Sofronitsky). For a complete set which will consistently
enrich one's appreciation of this fascinating composer in characteristically
rounded piano sound courtesy of engineer Tony Faulkner, though, this
Hyperion issue is hard to beat.