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CD Review

Alexander Scriabin

Complete Études

Alexander Paley, piano
Recorded in Santa Rosa, California on July 10-11, 1994 by Suzanne and George Ledin, Jr.
Produced by Victor and Marina A. Ledin
Naxos 8.553070 DDD Total time 59:46
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The Scriabin Études are his opus numbers 8, 42, 65, plus opus 2 #1, opus 49 #1, and opus 56 #4. They come from all phases of his composing career and are worthy of comparison with the Études of Scriabin's predecessors, Chopin and Liszt. Like the Études of Chopin and Liszt, these works are technically very demanding, but Scriabin is not so much concerned with the development and display of specific aspects of technique as with exploring a range of moods and colors.

Alexander Paley, who was born in Moldavia in 1956, brings to these varied works a calm and even-tempered approach. Although these are certainly virtuoso showpieces, Paley does not use this opportunity to show off. These are inner-directed and contemplative performances. This is not to fault his technique in any way - the demands of the music are surely met and dealt with. It is, however, in definite contrast to other artists who have recorded these works; for example, Vladimir Horowitz, who uses this material in a more self-indulgent manner.

Complete recorded sets of the Scriabin Études are hard if not impossible to find. Richter has recorded some of the opus 42, Morton Estrin the complete opus 42, and many other pianists including the composer have recorded excerpts. The Scriabin recording is currently on a Harmonia Mundi compact disc entitled "Scriabine and the Scriabinians" and the sound quality suggests that this could be a piano roll and not an acoustic recording from 1910. Scriabin's presentation of his opus 8 number 12 is one long stream of notes, a rush, a flood, a surrender to a wave of sound. No other performer treats the music in quite this way. The notes themselves seem secondary, sacrificed to a larger scheme in masses of sonority. Richter, Demidenko, and others all tend to articulate more clearly and so avoid this evocative blurring of detail. Paley comes closer to Scriabin's sound than do the Russians, and while his performance does not have the reckless energy of the original he does seem to find the feelings between the notes.

The sound of this release is basically very good, and although I find it somewhat dull and recessed, others will hear a rich, warm tone and plenty of ambience.

This recording is valuable and enjoyable and is recommended warmly.

Copyright © 1997, Paul Geffen