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CD Review

Alexander Scriabin

Études

  • 12 Études Op. 8 (1895)
  • 12 Études Op. 42 (1903)
Pâquerette Bloit, piano
Produced by Natalie-Isabel Cadinot
Cybella CY1123 DDD 48:15

Scriabin's reputation as a loco spiritualist is paraded too often as the be-all and end-all of his music. True, he was a fanatical mystic (he postulated a synthesis of all art in which music was just one component) and was fundamentally disdainful of people who could not engage him on his level. But the titillating linkage of Satanism and his art is about as tiresome as the raison d'être of "Für Elise."

Like every self-respecting post-Romantic, Scriabin owed some of his pianistic style to Chopin. His Opus 8 Études display the same technical/lyrical fusion but with Scriabin's own corrosive, inscrutable bent. The darkness is cultivated further in the later set, where he extends the harmonic explorations of Liszt and Wagner.

The new Cybella release of Bloit's recital is hugely marred, alas. The problem does not lie with her playing (which is accomplished enough) but with the recording itself: nine of the twenty tracks are mono! By some freak of engineering, her slightly tinny grand piano is transformed into a claptrap saloon upright with a complete loss of stereo imaging. It's especially galling in the barnstorming finale of Op. 8, #12, where the left hand demands a resonant bass. On the more listenable tracks, Bloit plays in a manic, nervous way well-suited to the shorter études. Her limited dynamic range leads me to believe that she does not have too much more in reserve (the Op. 8, #12 had her gasping for the final clatter of octaves).

The final (death) knell: the track information (listed on the back of the jewel case only) is hopelessly garbled. To explain what went wrong here would be a waste of your time; suffice to say, it goes way beyond the Gallic penchant for placing the table of contents at the end of the book. This disc is a frustrating botch, not even to be considered as a reference.

Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan

Trumpet