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Opus Posthum Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Waltz in D flat; Waltz in G sharp minor; Mazurka in B Minor; Mazurka in F; Mazurka in B Minor - Appendix; Nocturne in flat; Sonata-Fantaisie in sharp minor; Feuillet d'album de Monighetti; Scherzo in E flat; Scherzo in A flat; Piano Piece 1887 B-flat minor; Variations on a Theme of M-ll Egoroff in F Minor; Sonata in E flat minor; Fuge of 4 in F minor; Fuge of 5 in E Minor; Etude in D-sharp minor opus 8 Number 12 - Alternate Version 1894-95; Canon in D minor; Feuille d'album in F sharp Julian SCRIABIN (1908-1919)
Prelude op. 2; Two Preludes op. 3; Prelude
Maria Lettberg (piano)
rec. Studio Gärtnerstrasse, Berlin, Germany, 11-13 January, 2012 ES DUR RECORDS ES 2040 [67:31]
Hard on the heels of reviewing a disc that included Korngold’s Piano Trio, written when the composer was still only 12 years old, comes a disc of Scriabin’s piano works that were mainly composed before he was 16. It ends with four pieces composed by his son in the two years before he tragically drowned aged eleven in 1919.
The striking thing is the Chopinesque nature of the early Scriabin pieces. They’re so very different to his later works with their dreamy, ethereal and mystical qualities. None of these early works, all without opus numbers, were ever intended for publication. Scriabin had presumably decided that they were mere juvenilia unworthy of public exposure; his later music was from such a different world. We must be profoundly thankful that he never destroyed them though some others have been lost. There is an affecting childlike innocence that emerges from these pieces as well as a growing awareness of the pleasures and pain of young love. Several of them dedicated to some of his teenage girl-friends. All are delightful as well as being extraordinarily satisfying and extremely well constructed.
His mother, who died when Scriabin was a mere fourteen months old, was an outstanding concert pianist. It is clear that she left an indelible musical mark on her son and it is sad to think she was never to hear or play her son’s highly skilful early piano excursions. A measure of how brilliantly successful these pieces are is the fact that one could never tire of hearing them. On each hearing one discovers new elements in them. Whether the adorable little waltzes, the spirited mazurkas, the delicious nocturne or the fiery scherzos there is so much to admire and marvel. You need constantly to remind yourself that in most cases they were written by a boy between the ages of 11 and 17.
Shades of what was to come later are in evidence in his weighty Sonata in E flat minor of 1887-89 which for a teenager is an astonishingly mature work with some fabulously rich passages. The Bachian Fugue in F minor is another richly satisfying little gem as is another in E minor. I had to check that his Etude in D sharp minor was really his since I thought I recognised it as definitely by Chopin. Since this is listed as an alternative version it must be that I simply know the original; in any event it is gorgeous. The penultimate work here is his earliest too, written when he only eleven and showing what talent he already had. His early pieces end with Feuille d’album in F sharp major which, in the context of the rest, seems almost a ‘late’ work since he composed it at the age of 28. It only serves to emphasise how advanced his thinking was so many years before.
From father to son and another example of a prodigious talent, in his case so tragically cut short at the age of eleven. His Prelude Op.2 shows not just talent but advanced thinking, surely influenced by his father’s otherworldly outpourings, with its introspective nature. This continues with the other three works, the Two preludes Op.3 and the Prelude of 1919. It is enough to make one weep to think of what might have been had he lived. On this evidence the world would have seen another giant of keyboard writing.
A father who died at the early age of 43 and a son who only lived to the age of eleven; how fate robs the world at times. We must be thankful that we have what there is and that is considerable in the father’s case. In general this disc, which includes some first recordings, is a highly valuable addition to the recorded legacy of a true original in his formative years and of his obviously talented son. Put together with the pianistic talents of Latvian-born Maria Lettberg, whose elegant playing serves the music so well, this is an irresistible disc of beautiful and delicate music that is extremely infectious and that will never be far from my CD player.