SCRIABIN: Preludes, Impromptus, Poeme and Etude – Klara Min, p. – Steinway & Sons

by | Feb 11, 2016 | Classical CD Reviews

Klara Min reveals a natural affinity for the erotic early music of Alexander Scriabin.

SCRIABIN: Prelude in B Major; Impromptus, Op. 14; 3 Pieces, Op. 45; 24 Preludes, Op. 11; Poeme in F-sharp Major, Op. 32, No. 1; Etude in c-sharp minor, Op. 2, No. 1 – Klara Min, piano – Steinway & Sons 30045, 62:38 (1/8/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

South Korean pianist Klara Min studied with James Tocco in Lubeck, and she had a strong New York presence, having founded New York Concert Artists & Associates in 2008. A Schumann acolyte, Min advocates a kind of Davids-League, an artistic union to combat cultural arrogance and ignorance. The music of mystic Alexander Scriabin (rec. 13-14 July 2015) obviously appeals to her decidedly Romantic sensibility, here concentrated on the relatively early works of the Russian composer. The Op. 45, No. 1 Scriabin designates as an Album Leaf, and its subtle colors seem to appeal to the composer’s legendary pianissimo effects. Its emotion remains rather elusive. The “Poeme fantastique” No. 2 proffers a nervous scherzando which enjoys the occasional crisp mezzo-forte. The mercurial “Prelude” projects a sad, moody meditation, close to a Russian blues. Min’s pedal effects make the Op. 45 exquisitely inviting.

It was Gina Bachauer whose Capitol LP of the Op. 11 Scriabin Preludes first captured my own imaginative affinity for this composer’s hothouse music. Following Chopin’s own strategy of the circle of fifths, Scriabin composed the set of 24 over eight years (1888-1896), incorporating aspects of Chopin and Liszt into his idiosyncratic syntax. The No. 11 in G Major may well presage our sense that Debussy’s spirit looms nigh. The e minor proves as haunted a text as that of Chopin’s Op. 28, No. 4, tentative and moody.

Though brief, the No. 6 in b minor indicates what stormy power Scriabin commands in concentrate. The A Major could be assigned to Faure’s palette. The f-sharp minor offers a serpentine melody over a left hand figure, rarified Chopin, certainly, but fragile and luminous. The c-sharp minor nods to Rachmaninov in its dark color mood, resolving into the air by slow degrees. Rachmaninov seems to appear twice more, in the muscular c minor – with its potent trill – and at the end of the cycle in d minor, Presto. For subtle, shifting pedal effects, savor Min’s g-sharp minor Prelude, the No. 12. The G-flat Major, on the other hand, evokes aspects of Brahms, especially in the metric shifts under wide-spaced melodic chords. The e-flat minor poses demoniac impulses, moving to a shattering bass coda. The D-flat Major could be a lullaby by Mussorgsky, simple, askew, and provocative. Chopin’s Funeral March informs the b-flat minor Prelude (Misterioso), though the harmonic progression hints at Liszt and Ravel. No. 21, marked Andante in B-flat Major, expresses nocturnal thoughts with diaphanous tenderness. The F Major swims in luxuriant waters Liszt and Debussy would find restorative.

Glenn Gould used to favor the two Pieces for Piano, Op. 57 (1908). No. 1 “Desir” evokes pleasures both tame and forbidden, ending on a non-resolved chord. We move back to a C Major tonality for Caresse dansee, but Scriabin likely makes this a farewell kiss to tradition. The haunted innuendos of the Poeme, Op. 32, No. 1 waft veils into the rarified air, throbbing or shuddering with erotic expectation, “crystalline and perfumed.” The Op. 2, No. 1 that bookends this recital manages to suggest that what has passed is prologue, a passion whose mysteries will remain tantalizing and enigmatic to those who brave this composer’s singular journey.

Fine recorded piano sound, courtesy of Engineer Daniel Shores.

—Gary Lemco

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