Scriabin: Complete Etudes

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Complete Etudes
PERFORMER: Garrick Ohlsson


No pianist has captured on disc the deliriously intoxicating soundworlds of the Etudes with such intensity as Gordon Fergus-Thompson, although his exemplary Scriabin series for ASV is currently out of circulation.

Individual Etudes have been brought stunningly to life by such legendary Russian giants as Horowitz, Gilels and Richter, but for those wanting all 26 studies – Opp. 2 (No. 1), 8, 42, 49 (No. 1), 56 (No. 4) & 65 – complete on one disc, Piers Lane’s outstanding 1992 Hyperion survey (CDA 66607) still holds sway.

Garrick Ohlsson’s new disc is so utterly different in sound and approach that he might as well be playing different pieces. Whereas Lane is recorded at a discreet distance, enveloping the listener in a heat-haze of sensuously opulent pianism, Ohlsson sounds as though he is playing in an intimate, drawing-room location and gives interpretations to match.

Whereas Lane rejoices in the music’s concert-hall luxuriance, Ohlsson tantalisingly emphasises the music’s compressive tendency, playing with an intimacy that recalls Scriabin’s beloved exemplar, Chopin.

Rather than emphasising Scriabin’s neurotic changeability (akin to Chopin’s set of Preludes, Op. 28), Ohlsson finds a way of relating these highly charged miniatures to their Romantic forebears and contemporaries. Even the consecutive ninths of Op. 65 No. 1 emerge as gentle suspensions of tonal reality, rather than the work of a crazed genius staring into the atonal abyss.


Scriabin fans may find Ohlsson’s interpretations slightly lacking in exotic seduction, but for those still wondering quite what all the fuss is about, his virtuoso disentangling of this often cruelly taxing music may well prove the way in. A good introduction, then to Scriabin’s sound world. Julian Haylock