Alexander SCRIABIN(1872-1915) A Tribute to Scriabin: Preludes Opp.11, 16, 22,
37, 74 (selections); Sonata No.4 Op.30; Poèmes Opp.32, 63 (selections);
Morceaux Opp. 49, 51, 57 (selections); Etudes Op. 42 (selections);
Valse Op. 38; Danses Op.73; Vers la flamme Op.72; Valse Op. Posth.
Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. Nimbus Records, Wyastone Leys, UK, 15-16 October 2011
NIMBUS NI6198 [72:20]
Leo Tolstoi called Scriabin’s music “a sincere expression of
genius” while Scriabin described himself thus: “I am the apotheosis
of world creation. I am the aim of aims, the end of ends”. The
musical establishment, however, felt differently and, though
he was famous during his lifetime, he was quickly forgotten
after his death. Even as late as the 1970s there were few discs
of his music to be had.
Today that seems almost impossible to imagine since he has gained
his rightful place as one of the 19th century’s greatest
innovators who brought a completely new dimension to music.
Though there is evidence of the influence of Chopin his music
is otherwise unique with an ethereal and dreamlike quality;
if fairies existed this is surely the music they would dance
Pianist Vladimir Feltsman has also written the booklet notes
and they are extremely illuminating in their explanation of
Scriabin’s mysterious philosophy which had him sincerely believe
in the power of music to redeem the world with him as the medium
through which this would come about. One would expect someone
whose views were such to write exceptional music and so he did.
Equally, you would expect that music to divide opinion which
it most certainly does; you either love it or you don’t. I’m
certainly one of the lovers though I’m not addicted in the narcotic
sense that apparently some people can be - whatever that means.
Feltsman writes that Scriabin’s music doesn’t allow for development
only copying. I hope I’m not suggesting that when I say that
the composers who seem to me to come closest to the same ethereal
sound-world are Szymanowski and Messiaen. The music however
does have an almost therapeutic effect on me giving me a sense
of inner calm that banishes all feelings of stress and is the
perfect antidote to a hard day; I simply put on a disc of his
music, such as this one, and sit back with the headphones on
and close my eyes. I’m de-stressed while being taken to another
plane and can easily drift off. Perhaps this is the addictive
sense that some people experience.
That said there are moments when Scriabin wanted to disturb
that feeling of calm and presented a tormented soul and this
he does with equal aplomb. Conceived as a tribute this disc
presents a selection of his piano works in chronological order
taking music from a young man of 17 to a seasoned and fully
formed master of his craft. It’s completed with a little Chopinesque
waltz composed when he was just thirteen. Though it is interesting
to look closely at how the music is constructed I am not a pianist
and I cannot really do it. Frankly, I find that if it was ever
the case that music speaks for itself then this is it. Vladimir
Feltsman, however, does explain how Scriabin’s music is created
as well as what to listen out for.
He is a perfect pianist for this repertoire. He is also renowned
for his discs of the solo piano works of Bach, Schubert, Schumann,
Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Messiaen and Silvestrov, as well as concertos
by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.
His gentle touch which is so often called for in this music
is a vital component in producing that sense of calm I mentioned
earlier, together with an almost hypnotic effect.
In my collection I have examples of some of the pieces on this
disc played by Scriabin himself as well as by Alexander Goldenweiser,
Heinrich Neuhaus and Vladimir Sofronitski and it is interesting
to hear them interpret the same piece. What I can say is that
that Feltsman is up there with the greatest Scriabin interpreters.
When I compared his rendition of the Op.11 no.13 against Scriabin’s
own I really couldn’t choose between them apart from Feltsman
taking another 15 seconds on it. There really is no higher praise
than to liken him to the great man himself. Scriabin was a brilliant
pianist who fairly early on in his career stated emphatically
“I play only Scriabin”. Vladimir Feltsman from the Great Russian
tradition of pianism can do this too and more. This is a disc
no lover of Scriabin could bear to do without and those who
are unmoved by his music should really use the opportunity afforded
by this disc’s release to reappraise their opinion.
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