WORKS: Preludes (complete)
PERFORMER: Piers Lane (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67057-58
Listening to the complete cycle of Scriabin’s preludes makes for a fascinating journey through his development as a composer, from the earliest Chopinesque works to the final enigmatic, ego-led creative outpourings. More than half of them are concentrated in the mid-1890s, beginning with the set of 24, Op. 11, which use the regular key pattern of Chopin’s Op. 28; a second cycle was begun with Op. 13, but the same tonal scheme eventually fizzled out as Scriabin found himself driven by other criteria. By the middle of the first decade of the 20th century, we find him exploring the ecstatic language of his symphonic works, while by the year of his death, the preludes seem caught up in the mystical, post-tonal style of Prometheus and Mysterium.
Lane’s complete set is a belated follow-up to his 1992 disc of the composer’s Études and shares the pianistic command of that project. There’s a muddiness to the figuration that hides some of the harmonic detail, but otherwise Lane certainly knows how to tease out the music’s textural subtleties; his emotional commitment is undeniable, as is his grasp of the poetic/virtuosic dichotomy inherent in Scriabin’s music.
The Russian pianist Anna Gourari’s single CD combines the 24 preludes of Op. 11, along with some complete opuses and cherry-pickings from others. There’s some imaginative playing here, with even more of a sense than Lane that the poetic essence of each miniature has really been extracted to the full. Lane’s set is the only currently available complete set, though the benchmark for Op. 11 remains Artur Pizarro. Matthew Rye