COMPOSERS: Julian Scriabin,Scriabin
WORKS: Preludes, Vol. 2: Opp. 22, 27, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 48, 67, 74
PERFORMER: Evgeny Zarafiants (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554145
The distance traversed by Scriabin – stylistic, spiritual and pianistic – between the earliest and latest of his near-90 preludes was vast, and there’s no guarantee that a performer wholly at one with the early, Chopinesque preludes of the 1890s will be in the least comfortable with the harmonically advanced and often hyper-intense ones of 1912-14 (just as there’s no guarantee that a born Chopin player will excel equally in Liszt – and the difference between the early and the late Scriabin is hardly less).
Like ASV, in its complete cycle by Gordon Fergus-Thompson, Naxos has turned up trumps with the little-known Russian Evgeny Zarafiants. Rhythmically subtle (and continually supple), tonally expansive and dramatically wide-ranging, he plays this music with great conviction, and a technique which copes comfortably with all challenges. Even in the most tempestuous and tortuous passages, his tone is never strident, and his harmonic colouring could profitably be emulated by many pianists of ten times his renown. His pedalling is exemplary (which is not a back-handed compliment, especially in this music), as is his equal command of fine detail and large-scale structure. That said, I have to admit that I find him more compellingly persuasive in the predominantly lyrical preludes than in the most intensely moody, even sinister ones. In the latter, no one is likely ever to surpass the late, legendary Vladimir Horowitz, whose stunning 1956 recital, incorporating many though not all of the present works, has been superbly remastered by RCA. But this is a release, nevertheless, which can be highly recommended – not least for the excellent recorded sound. Jeremy Siepmann