Alexander Scriabin: Mazurkas (Hyperion)

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No-one ever built a career on Scriabin. The Russian composer is altogether too quirky, too much a self-declared outsider, to draw a mainstream following. Lion of the piano raided his lesser pieces for encores but never played a Scriabin concerto or a full recital. Vladimir Horowitz, who played for the composer as a ten year-old boy, is a rare devotee who made a Scriabin D# minor Etude his Carnegie Hall calling-card.

Mazurkas, Poemes, Impromptus and Other Pieces for Piano ...All the more reason to applaud the young Russian virtuoso Andrey Gugnin for inveting in an album of Mazurkas, a Polish national dish that demonstrates Scriabin’s attachment to Chopin. An early opus 3 set has little to rivet the attention and much that is repetitive; likewise, a midlife opus 25 set. But two Mazurkas opus 40 take us right to the heart of Scriabin and to the very edge of tonality. Scriabin messes not only with tonal relations but with tempi, disrupting the flow of a melodic line and keeping the player on the qui-vive for sudden changes and incomprehensible diversions.

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Gugnin handles these caprices with studied nonchalance and an uncommon ear for fleeting beauty. He reminds us that Scriabin, while marginal to modern concerts, is the living heart of Russian pianism, a patriarch whose influence extends through the Moscow teacher Heinrich Neuhaus, through his students Richter and Gilels, and beyond to define a distinctive Russian approach to black and white keys that is founded on an absence of nationalism, an openness to other sounds.


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About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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  1. Pingback: Lead us to the beating heart of Russian music – Slipped Disc – Daily Research

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