Berlinskaya Plays Scriabin
At no point do the repertoires of these two discs overlap, but, as if tiptoeing around one another, both of them give some idea of how Scriabin’s musical language developed from his earliest years to those strange, febrile, luminescent works of his maturity. The recital by Ludmila Berlinskaya, daughter of the late lamented cellist of the Borodin Quartet, Valentin Berlinsky, extends from 10 of the 24 Preludes, Op 11 (completed in 1896), through to the Ninth (Black Mass) Sonata (1912-13) and Vers la flamme (1914) by way of the Fourth Sonata (1903). Valentina Lisitsa explores a swathe of juvenilia – waltzes, scherzos and mazurkas all composed even before Scriabin went to study at the Moscow Conservatoire – but also embraces a handful of later pieces. Lisitsa calls her disc ‘Nuances’ but she misses a trick. One of the Four Pieces, Op 56, is entitled ‘Nuances’ but she doesn’t include it. Berlinskaya does, though her disc is merely called ‘Scriabin’.
Berlinskaya’s is by far the more nourishing recital. She is limpid and graceful in the first five of her Op 11 Preludes (Nos 5, 9, 10, 11 and 13), and then launches headlong into the E flat minor Prelude, taken at a presto of fiery, explosive energy and momentum. This is the point at which the recital really takes wing. In the remaining preludes she feels the pulse of the music instinctively, knowing when its shape suggests a slight pulling back or pushing forwards. There is an idiomatic fluidity to her playing, which spills over into the Fourth Sonata, though the Ninth, for all its unnerving undercurrents and vehemence, does not deliver quite the same potency of impact and intensity as on the disc by Yevgeny Sudbin (BIS, 12/07), whose survey of Scriabin’s piano music has so far been unsurpassed. Berlinskaya also finds room for two preludes by Boris Pasternak and four (written at the age of 10 and 11) by Scriabin’s youngest son, Julian: from the stylistic point of view, both are Scriabin’s heirs.
The predominant quality of the Lisitsa disc is charm. She plays the early pieces, most of which sound nothing like mature Scriabin, with attractive delicacy and lucidity; but when it comes to the very particular swirls and hazes of the later Poème, Op 59 No 1, and the Etudes, Op 65 Nos 2 and 3, her somewhat prettified, rose-tinted vision makes you appreciate all the more the closer affinity with Scriabin that comes through in the playing of both Berlinskaya and Sudbin.