Skriabin's glorious Preludes Op. 11 may not show the composer
at his most mature, but they are still extremely individual
and are splendidly conceived for the piano. Marta Deyanova has
the full measure of this rewarding set of ultra-romantic miniatures
and is well able to elucidate the composer's kaleidoscopic range
As the brief but informative booklet note by David Murray explains,
the Op. 11 Preludes were written at different times, but reordered
and sometimes transposed, so that they share the key scheme
of Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28. It is therefore remarkable
that Marta Deyanova makes the whole set seem so integrated.
Key schemes apart, Skriabin's debt to Chopin in his early works
has possibly been exaggerated, as each of these Preludes clearly
displays the Russian composer's strong musical personality.
The opening prelude is beautifully played and listeners will
immediately notice the excellent recorded sound, which is pleasingly
reverberant, yet well focused. I have heard many piano recordings
made in the last ten years that sound far less realistic. Deyanova
is superb in both the ruminative numbers (try the haunting Prelude
No. 15 in D flat) and in the bravura pieces such as the fiery
No. 14 in E flat minor. Prelude No. 24 is also given a towering
performance, reminiscent of Horowitz. If listeners are wishing
for a complete set of Skriabin's Preludes, then Piers Lane (Hyperion)
can be strongly recommended. There are also two discs on Naxos
played by Evgeny Zarafiants (review),
but I find his first disc (containing the Op. 11 Preludes) far
less satisfying performance-wise than his interpretations of
the later works. If your interest is primarily in the Op. 11
Preludes, then this Nimbus issue is clearly the disc to buy.
I must confess that I find Shostakovich's Preludes Op. 34 utterly
banal and completely lacking in musical interest. If they were
to bear the name of a less well known composer, these Preludes
would probably never see the light of day at all. They are rarely
encountered in the concert hall, though they are certainly well
represented on disc, with five distinguished performances currently
available, most notably Tatiana Nikolayeva on Hyperion CDA66620.
There can be no doubt of Shostakovich's mastery in works such
as his Tenth Symphony, Eighth String Quartet and Second Piano
Concerto; this set of Preludes, however, is surely unworthy
of him. The first Prelude consists of nothing but musical doodling
and one listens in vain for anything more memorable in the pieces
that follow. The lowest point is reached in Prelude No. 6 in
B minor, which is completely vacuous.
Marta Deyanova plays these pieces as well as can be expected
and the more brilliant numbers, such as Nos. 5 and 20, are given
dazzling renditions. Despite her superb playing, this writer
is left with the sad realisation that no amount of skill could
make these Op. 34 Preludes sound anything other than stillborn.
Despite my strong reservations about the Shostakovich work,
this is a splendid disc. The outstanding playing is complemented
by sound of the highest quality.