Naxos recorded a quite comprehensive Scriabin piano cycle about
a decade ago, including good readings of the sonatas by Bernd
Glemser and masterly interpretations of the preludes by Evgeny
Zarafiants. The disc now under review might be seen as a mopping
up of sundry pieces not included in that cycle. Since the programme
is strictly chronological and spans practically his whole creative
life, from the two valses, written when he was fourteen,
to the Deux danses, Op. 73 which were composed during his
last year and were followed only by the Five Preludes,
Op. 74. This allows us to follow his development, through various
phases, landing at quite some distance from where it all started
when Chopin was his idol and model.
the melodies’ someone wrote condescendingly about the early
Scriabin. I think that is an unfair description. The valses
are attractive and have an elegance of their own and the Polonaise,
which he wrote when he was already 25, still has more than
a flavour of Chopin, which should come as no surprise.
But then there
was a watershed, which coincided with the turn of the century
watershed in 1900. The Fantaisie, Op. 28 takes us to
a different sound-world with harmonies that tell us that the
Wagner bacillus had reached him. In the Poèmes Opp,
32, 34 and 36 from three years later he had gone one step
further and created his own impressionism. The Poème tragique
is honestly more stormy than tragic and the Satan that
he portrays in Poème satanique is hardly the prevalent
picture of him but rather a ‘Devil in disguise’.
With the Poèmes
Opp. 41 and 52, though separated by some years, we find the
ethereal Scriabin, floating about in an impressionist landscape
filled with haze, mist and blurred contours. Finally we are
at the end of the journey with Vers la flamme with
its almost manic repetitive eruptions and the Deux danses
with the same kind of intensity.
The young Xiayin
Wang, who studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and Manhattan
School of Music, is a dynamic interpreter, powerful but also
able to relax without losing momentum, as for instance in
the lyrical moments of the delicate Valse in A flat major,
Op. 38. She has a wide palette of colours and the superb recording
brings out the full scope of her playing admirably.
As sheer pianism
this is a disc that requires to be heard by every lover of
piano music. Scriabin lovers will find plenty to revel in
and for the reader who is a newcomer to the music of this
very special composer I can hardly imagine a better disc to
gain insight into his world. From there one can then explore
further his preludes, sonatas and other genres.