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The Transcendentalist
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prelude, Op.16 no. 1 in B major [2:48]
Prelude, Op.11 no. 21 in B flat major [1:17]
John CAGE (1912-1992)
Dream (1948) [9:03]
Alexander SCRIABIN
Guirlandes, Op.73 no. 1 [4:15]
Prelude, Op.31 no. 1 in D flat major [2:28]
Prelude, Op.39 no. 3 in G major [1:23]
Prelude, Op.15 no. 4 in E major [1:11]
Scott WOLLSCHLEGER (b. 1980)
Music Without Metaphor (2013) [6:50]
Alexander SCRIABIN
Rêverie, Op.49 no. 3 [1:10]
Poème languide, Op.52 no. 3 [1:36]
In a Landscape (1948) [9:30]
Morton FELDMAN (1926-1987)
Palais de Mari (1986) [22:37]
Ivan Ilić (piano)
rec. September and November 2013, Salle Cortot, Paris.

Transcendentalism is the connective thread that binds together this recital. The conceit is detailed in the booklet notes, and the conceptual link by which Cage, Feldman and Scott Wollschleger are bound to Scriabin is pursued there with sometimes plausible, sometimes ambiguous reasoning. Mysticisim, Zen Buddhism, synaesthesia (Wollschleger’s) are all mooted; the emotive states, however, remain relatively constant – introspection and contemplation.
In a similar spirit, Ivan Ilić approaches each composer with a sure sense of his music’s colour and sound-world. Feldman’s Palais de Mari confides ‘piano’ – there is a severe retrenchment from anything that draws attention to itself, and dynamics are dampened. The brief and fragmentary elements involve thoughtful use of the sustaining pedal, and those few moments of chordal prominence are judged with great acuity. Allusive romanticism plays its part here, acknowledged or not, which playing of this refinement does little to disguise. Recordings of this work by Siegfried Mauer (on Kairos) and Sabine Leibner on an all-Feldman 2-CD set on Oehms, explore similar avenues, but Ilić’s touch is second to none.
John Cage’s In A Landscape is a piece of pre-cast concrete, as it were. It was composed to fit a pre-conceived rhythmic structure, the inspiration being Satie. Typically hypnotic, the modal coloration is perfectly realised here, as it is in the more ambiguous stance adopted in Cage’s Dream, where transparency alludes to Satie but may also be seen to be the inheritor of Scriabin’s mystic offerings. Wollschleger’s Music without Metaphor dates from as recently as 2013, and is a work that is actively static. A second-generation Feldman pupil – he studied with Nils Vigeland, whom Feldman greatly admired – he charts his own course, one in which elegant refinement is strongly prominent.
The putative head of the transcendentalist chain here is Scriabin and Ilić has chosen cannily amongst his portfolio of pieces for music that reflects - and does not contradict - the conceit. Invariably he has avoided the sonatas and incendiary pieces, preferring works, sequenced throughout the disc, that offer quieter, more concentrated and introspective allusions. Whether or not Scriabin and the example of Satie’s repeating Vexations prove to be uppermost in your mind, following this recital one cannot but admire Ilić’s idiomatic grip.
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Kirk McElhearn