SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 23; 4 Preludes, Op. 22; 2 Impromptus, Op. 14; 3 Morceaux, Op. 49; 2 Poemes, Op. 69; Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 70; 6 Preludes, Op. 63; 2 Poemes, Op. 63; 3 Etudes, Op. 65 – Pervez Mody, p. – Thorofon CTH2612, 69:20 (6/10/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Indian concert pianist Pervez Mody has made the music of Alexander Scriabin a specialty, and this collection (rec. 7-9 April 2013) includes some rarely heard items from the intensely prolific oeuvre by the Russian mystic composer.
Mody’s recital opens with the hectically passionate Piano Sonata No. 3 (1897-98), which declaims a joyous chord – the “cry of victory” – for a dubious “program” attached to the score that may have originated not from the composer, but from his second wife, Tatyana Schloezer. What does impress us in this sonata – besides its flagrant emotionalism – derives from Scriabin’s synthesis of sonata-form, polyphony, and his idiosyncratic approach to harmony, especially his fondness for the interval of the fourth. Mody communicates the energetic assertiveness of the Drammatico movement that ends with a query, to lead us to the Scherzo (Allegretto) and Trio, in the form of a Schumann-like march. Brief but clangorous, the outer sections contrast with the “veil” imagery supplied by the “program.”
The last two movements indulge the “oceanic” muse proffered as a rationale for the G-sharp Minor Sonata that precedes it. Scriabin evokes a childlike innocence for the Andante, the spirit of which evokes Schumann. The music meanders, favoring the sonority of choice, an inner voice surrounded by a vaporous halo, something like Liszt’s Un Sospiro. The finale from Chopin’s B Minor Sonata may factor in the emotional tumult of Scriabin’s Presto con fuoco, which tests Mody’s left hand for restless figuration upon which chromatic lines pile up and then relent in an evocation of Wagner’s Tristan. The textures, thickened by rising semitone steps, achieve a symphonic thickness, moving to a Herculean version of the slow movement theme. The merciless drive to the coda moves with erotic authority, but Scriabin avoids the expected move to F-sharp Major and concludes with the more demonic music of the snarling Scherzo.
The four brief Four Preludes, Op. 22 (1897) certainly claim Chopin as the predecessor. The G-sharp Minor No. 1 rings with internal fury. No. 2 in C-sharp Minor has a dreamy effect, a cross between album leaf and nocturne. The B Major No. 3 presages Debussy’s parlando effects. No. 4, Andantino in B Minor, progresses in block chords and rich arpeggios that die away, pp. The Op. 14 Impromptus shake hands with Chopin, exploiting his device of merging the rhythmic pulse from mazurka and waltz rhythm. The B Minor Impromptu moves in ¾ dotted rhythm. The F-sharp Minor Impromptu plays like one of Chopin’s Nouvelles Etudes. Mody provides a lulling, erotic shape for this neglected moment from the Russian voluptuary. At the recital’s end, with Three Etudes, Op. 65 (1912), we can hear the virtuosic application of ninths, sevenths, and fifths in vertically audacious harmony while the thumb must provide a melody. Something of Schumann – besides the immortal Chopin – marks these (symphonic) etudes, since they contest opposing characters in the hands.
With the Morceaux, Op. 49 (1906) Scriabin’s condensed polyphony and polyrhythmic style has congealed into a mature form, no longer indebted to past Romantics. Scriabin’s harmony already moves in clusters to what would become his “Prometheus” chords. Though exceedingly terse, their innate volatility impresses us via Mody’s reading. The later Scriabin becomes more chaste expressively, as we witness in Two Poemes, Op. 69 (1913), the first of which, Allegretto, poses subtle, delicate tracer in the manner of veils. The second piece, Reverie, embodies in flying thirty-second notes, the composer’s Puckish striving for purity and light that suffuses his Tenth Sonata (1912-13). The Two Poemes, Op. 63 (1912) reveal the “Prometheus” Chord, built of six notes that span a fourth. Incredible concentrated, the first piece, Masque, moves down a fourth at measure 5 to a second section marked bizarre at bar 10, which vaporizes before we can grasp it. The second piece extends the impulse, Etrangete (weirdness), a series of sparkling runs that invoke Prometheus even as they scamper away.
The “big” piece in this collection doubtless looms Sonata No. 10, which attempts to distill degrees of ecstatic light, like a landscape or mindscape by Turner. Like Beethoven, Scriabin finds liberation in his trill, sometimes combining this effect with shimmering tremolos and garlands of sweeping sound. Scriabin indicates a “profound veiled ardor” for his chromatic line that opens out at bar 39, Allegro. The descending thirds in the opening section infiltrate Scriabin’s progress as he transposes his main tune down a third upon each repetition. The trills and cascades collide and compete with the development, which Mody executes with lofty vitality, as he must, to attain the puissant, radieux climax (fff) of this solipsistic vision. A huge silence ensues, answered only by the cyclical reappearance of the beginning music, the Alpha and Omega, if you will.