Here are two Russian works with important roles for the solo piano.
The Scriabin/Nemtin piece is an attempt at realising a work left in fragments
by the Russian composer. The work was extremely ambitious. This was to have
been the crowning work in Scriabin's output. It was to represent a synthesis
of the five senses and of all the arts. Nicholas Slonimsky writes that Scriabin
envisaged the work as a final sacrament with himself (Scriabin) as high priest.
No doubt the solo piano part is the composer. Slonimsky refers to a trilogy
with Poem of Ecstasy as the first part, Preliminary (or Prefatory) Act as
the intermediate part and Mysterium. On that basis what we have here is an
attempt to realise the Prefatory Act and Mysterium. Slonimsky was rather
dismissive of the present attempt but it is still of interest.
This recording has been around for some time. I recall it on an EMI-Melodiya
LP from the early 1970s. The decorative piano part has some parallels with
the style of the solo in Arnold Bax's roughly contemporaneous Symphonic
Variations. The style is quite meandering and rhapsodic carried where
it will by the winds of someone's inspiration. It is all quite impressionistic
and is very much of a stylistic piece with Prometheus and Poem
of Ecstasy. Climaxes boils and swirl continuously and the piano is rarely
far away in decorative filigree and pearly cataracts. At 19:20 a brass figure
rears up impressively. The orchestra rushing upwards figures are very well
handled and it is a strong testimony to Kondrashin's dedication that the
whole thing never once seems to lack conviction even if the attention is
bound to drift off from time to time. The piece ends in a sense of grand
exaltation and high energy. There are interesting parallels here with Delius'
Song of the High Hills and the also contemporaneous Universe Symphony
of Charles Ives.
The Khachaturyan is given a dynamic performance with Flier reveling in the
incantatory opening. Later Stravinsky's Easter Fair (Petroushka) is
evoked with bell-like clarity. This recording (a decade older than the Scriabin)
has strings which are rather thin sounding and not at all opulent. This hits
home with some force at 6:16 on track 2. While there is no doubting the
brilliance of Flier (explosive Lisztian bravura at end of first movement)
he is not the equal of Oxana Yablonskaya on Naxos. The piece was dedicated
to Lev Oborin and although the concerto does not have the most musically
commanding ideas they are very resourcefully used. The flexatone can be
(discreetly) heard in this recording.
The excellent notes (as usual, by Sigrid Neef) mention Kondrashin's high
regard for the music of his composition teacher Nikolai Zhilyayev (1881-1938)?
Did he ever record any of it?
BMG-Melodiya is a consistently rewarding label and we must hope for much
more to be issued. For now let me recommend this disc for the Scriabin devotee.
You will not want to be without this attempt to evoke what might have been.
I wonder what Anthony Payne would have made of such a project. This is the
first and, as far as I am aware, only recording of the Scriabin.