Poems and Fairy Tales = MEDTNER: Fairy Tale in B-flat Minor, Op. 20, No. 1; Sonata-Reminiscenza, Op. 38, No. 1; SCRIABIN: Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 2, No. 1; Eight Preludes, Op. 11; Prelude in A Major, Op. 11, No. 2; Etude in D-sharp Minor, Op. 8, No. 12; Two Poems, Op. 32; Album Leaf, Op. 45, No. 1; Vers la Flamme, Op. 72 – Irina Feoktistova, piano – MSR Classics MS 1326, 43:57 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Recordings made at WFMT studios between June and September 2008 feature Russian pianist Irina Feoktistova, who obviously favors the late romantics from her own motherland. Medtner’s Op. 20 Skazka resembles Chopin’s Op. 9, No. 1 Nocturne for a few precious moments, then Medtner’s intricate harmony and shifting metrics hint at Rachmaninov and Brahms at once. The sonata in one movement, Sonata Reminiscenza, seems rife with liquid evocations of childhood and romance. Feoktistova plays the thirteen-minute piece for its shifting contours and pearly nuances, the more whimsical moments owing debts to Schumann and maybe Grieg. The piece is notated in A Minor, but Medtner wanders into foreign lands and images without much regard for traditional sonata-form. Episodic, the piece turns mid-way into a jagged toccata or ballade not far from the Prokofiev sensibility, though thickly contrapuntal. Perhaps touches of Schubert infiltrate the intricate filigree; at least, there are incursions of a melodic gift. A buoyant dance-rhythm occupies the last pages, though Medtner seems to enjoy watching it dissolve into rivulets of color.
The remainder of the disc Feoktistova devotes to the mystical miniaturist Alexander Scriabin, beginning with his C-sharp Minor Etude whose left hand is all Chopin. The D-sharp Minor always compels comparison with the emotional throes of Tristan and Isolde, a passion rising and falling in own fires. A survey of nine of the Op. 11 Preludes reminds me that it was Gina Bachauer who first called the entire set to my attention, via her Capitol LP. The melos, when it rises above the thick cream of harmonization or counterpoint, nods to Chopin at every turn. The B Minor reveals an inflamed spirit that is new. The No. 10 in C-sharp Minor could have been penned by young Alban Berg. The E-flat Minor points to the ferocity that the later piano sonatas will achieve. The D-flat Major smiles at Debussy but goes its own way. The angular A Major hints at late Liszt, terse, modal and nostalgic for a dream world that may have never existed.
The last four works derive from Scriabin’s mature style, when “poem” could designate a world unto itself, even within a nutshell. The Op. 32, No. 1 shimmers with erotic suggestion. The D Major is the more aggressive, a toccata in bold, even garish, colors that stops and starts, undulating in writhing flames. The E-flat Album Leaf has its visual counterpart in a sketch by Gauguin, whose contours melt the closer we inspect them. The 1914 Vers la flamme marks an apocalypse, concentrated in a disturbingly small space, a series of half-step progressions that soon rise to an incandescent heat. The tremolos themselves are made of white phosphorous, as though Debussy’s footsteps in the snow had trespassed onto the surface of supernova.