Alexander SKRIABIN (1872-1915)
24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 11 (1896) [28:44]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (1933) [26:46]
Marta Deyanova (piano)
rec. 8-9 January 1985, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI 5026 [55:33]
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 of moods.
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.
Another superb reissue from Nimbus, excellently engineered.