French pianist Vincent Larderet (credit Karis Kennedy)

Larderet plays Scriabin with sensitivity and breathtaking technique

CD REVIEW:
Scriabin Mystery
Vincent Larderet, piano.
Alexander SCRIABIN: Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 2, No. 1
Alexander SCRIABIN: Etude in F sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 2
Alexander SCRIABIN: Etude in B flat minor, Op. 8 No. 11
Alexander SCRIABIN: Prelude & Nocturne for the left hand, Op. 9
Alexander SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 19 (“Sonata Fantasy”)
Alexander SCRIABIN: Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 42, No. 5
Alexander SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 64 (“White Mass”)
Alexander SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 9, Op.68 (“Black Mass”)
Alexander SCRIABIN: Vers la flamme, Op. 72
Alexander SCRIABIN: 5 Preludes, Op. 74
Manfred KELKEL: Tombeau de Scriabine Op. 22 – I. “Prelude”
Alexander SCRIABIN: 2 Danses, Op. 73
Avie Records AV 2553
Release Date: September 23, 2022
Duration: 85:07

Giorgio Koukl | 29 OCT 2022

Russian composer Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin (1871-1915) was certainly a singular figure among the composers of his time.

Aleksandr Scriabin (photo:  Sammlung Megele)

Aleksandr Scriabin (photo: Sammlung Megele)

Born in Moscow as a son of an aristocratic family and soon following the classical education of his ancestors, that of a military career, he nonetheless proved to be completely inadequate for this discipline. He was so trained in the usual way his time requested for a wealthy family offspring, that of a musician.

Studying piano extensively and fully immersed in a cultural life his parents were able to attract, he soon discovered just another problem of his tiny physical presence; that of small hands. It might have been the unjust comparison with his fellow student Rachmaninoff, who had enormous hands, that the young Scriabin forced his hands over any reasonable obstacle, studying all the Beethoven sonatas at the same time.


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Similar to his predecessor Robert Schumann, Scriabin was left with permanent bone damage in the right hand, ending any chance of becoming known as a pianist. What a disgrace to a young man who felt much attracted to the musical world but hated composing. At the same time, it is due only to this circumstance that he created a splendid Prelude and Nocturne Op. 9 for the left hand.

Scriabin was soon diagnosed as synesthetic. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where the subject mixes the different sensory inputs into one sensation. In the case of his particular disease, this was a sensory experience in that every musical note was colored. Thus all his lifelong longing to write music to be used contemporaneously with some color projections. Estimates are that only four percent of the population has such a disorder, most of them being artists. Very often, this condition also links to some autistic behavior. Olivier Messiaen and Wassily Kandinsky are two of the best-known artists with such a condition.

Avie Records AV 2553

Avie Records AV 2553

The life of Scriabin was soon heavily influenced by Theosophy, thus developing an extraordinary interest in oriental mystical philosophy. He spent the last years of his life trying to organize a multimedia project, Mysterium, on the Armageddon theme, to be realized in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains where, in his vision, a giant flame would engulf and burn the whole world. He also followed his vision in his Vers la flame, Op. 72, a work present in this new CD called Scriabin Mystery.

Scriabin Mystery is the debut collaboration between French pianist Vincent Larderet and Avie Records, even if going to direct competition with the famous versions of Vladimir Ashkenazy or Vladimir Horowitz, to cite only two, has nothing to envy to the precedent recordings.


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Larderet has a fabulous array of piano shades, a bursting and robust technique, and a sensibility only a few pianists can display today.

He is well known as a Ravel and Scriabin specialist, and in this specific case, he has chosen some of the most representative music of the Russian master. All the pieces are arranged strictly in chronological order so that a listener can enjoy the slow development from late romanticism into something far more intriguing, the late Scriabin style.

The sonatas chosen for this project are the romantic Sonata No. 2, Op. 19; Sonata No. 7, Op. 64, called “White Mass”; and Sonata No. 9, Op. 68, called “Black Mass” (a name not given to it by the composer).

Larderet plays all this music with breathtaking technique and well-chosen tempi.


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Perhaps the most famous piece is Vers la flame (“Toward the Flame”), Op. 72, with its incredible crescendo lasting some six minutes — a real challenge for any pianist. It is splendidly played but maybe lacks some of the intensity Horowitz was able to produce.

Tombeau de Scriabine has an intriguing story. It is a reconstruction of a sketch meant by Scriabin for his never-finished Mysterium. Long forgotten, it was completed by the musicologist Manfred Kelkel (1929–1999), so as far as is known, this is a world premiere recording. The potent Scriabinesque harmonies are present, but somehow the whole piece lacks originality.

The recording is technically a fine creation, with one strange exception: track number two has completely different sonics, maybe just a minor glitch of an otherwise quite excellent product.

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Giorgio Koukl (photo: Chiara Solari)

Giorgio Koukl is a Czech-born pianist/harpsichordist and composer who resides in Lugano, Switzerland. Among his many recordings are the complete solo piano works and complete piano concertos of Bohuslav Martinů on the Naxos label. He has also recorded the piano music of Tansman, Lutosławski, Kapralova, and A. Tcherepnin, amongst others, for the Grand Piano label. Koukl has most recently completed recording a second volume of the complete solo piano music of Polish composer Alfons Szczerbinski.
(photo: Chiara Solari)

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