Scriabin: Preludes, Opp. 2/2, 9/1, 11, 13, 15, 16 & 17

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COMPOSERS: Scriabin
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Preludes, Opp. 2/2, 9/1, 11, 13, 15, 16 & 17
PERFORMER: Evgeny Zarafiants (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553997
Naxos’s main list is repertoire-led. If you want all the Preludes Scriabin wrote for piano, then Naxos will give them to you, though you may not have heard of the pianist. Perhaps we all need two CD collections: one ‘The Complete’ of every composer and category, the other of performances – probably in mixed recitals and some very possibly transferred from 78s or LPs – which you actually want to hear again.

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The only complete alternative to this first volume of Scriabin’s Preludes (and there are almost as many to come in a second volume) is by Gordon Fergus-Thompson (ASV). Since his disc is not at bargain price, there’s not much point in recommending it as a benchmark, as there’s nothing to choose between Naxos and ASV as far as recorded sound goes, nor on musical grounds.

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Moscow-trained Evgeny Zarafiants is certainly sensitive, but sometimes in a rather negative way, as if he’s afraid of damaging the music. Some of his tempi are much too slow (Op. 11/2 and 8), but the same goes for Fergus-Thompson. Both are dull in Op. 15/3 compared with Igor Nikonovich, whose remarkable disc of ‘Rare Scriabin’ on Olympia includes the complete Opp. 15 and 16 sets of Preludes as well as the brief but potent Op. 39 Preludes and the magical Op. 42 Études. Nikonovich’s authority and panache make Zarafiants and Fergus-Thompson seem timid by comparison. For the 24 Preludes of Op. 11, by far the most exciting option is Mikhail Pletnev on Virgin. Adrian Jack