SCRIABIN Complete Etutdes
From the first prelude in B major to the last one in no designated key, the 90 miniatures on this fine two-disc set from Anthony Hewitt trace the extraordinary path of Scriabin’s creative development from 1889 (when he was in his teens) up to 1914, the year before his death. Much of the material here is rarely explored, attention generally tending to focus on the 24 Preludes Op 11, composed at various times and in different places chiefly during the years 1894 96, with one of them, the C major No 1, dating to 1893 and another, the B minor No 6, to 1889 while Scriabin was in Kiev. Only on publication were they arranged in sequence, the major key preludes separated by a fifth (C major, G major, D major and so on) with each one followed by a prelude in the relative minor (A minor, E minor, B minor). This follows the same pattern as that of the 24 Preludes, Op 28, by Chopin, a composer with whom Scriabin’s preludes are frequently compared and to whom Scriabin occasionally nods, most notably in his homage to Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’ Sonata in the B flat minor Prelude No 16.
But any similarities are only superficial, since Scriabin is already venturing into realms of harmony and texture that Chopin would not have envisaged. The curious, weightless B flat Prelude No 21, wandering from 3/4 to 5/4, is a case in point, but there are many other instances here, for all that the ear might reference Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Study when it hears Scriabin’s tempestuous F minor Prelude, Op 17 No 5, from 1895. Many of these earlier preludes were composed contemporaneously with the 24 included in Op 11 but, as Hewitt shows in these instinctive, fully formed interpretations, each has a character of its own. When it comes to the late preludes, say from Op 59 No 2 onwards, Scriabin’s harmonic vocabulary can no longer be contained within any formal key signature, and Hewitt captures ideally the music’s poise between structure and fluidity, passionate drama and introspection, or, as Scriabin himself has it, the contrasts between belliqueux and douloureux.