SCRIABIN Etudes for Piano
‘Scriabin, where does he come from, and who are his followers?’ asked Stravinsky, lost in bewilderment and wonder. Others took a different view of such originality, reminding us that there are those who think ‘that the air is filled with green monkeys with crimson eyes and sparkling tails, a kind of ecstasy that is sold in Russia at two roubles a bottle’. Such an amusing if misleading comment focuses on Scriabin’s later music, where his early full-blooded romanticism changes into a pared-down obsessive use of certain intervals and wheelings round a single idea.
Such worries hardly concern us, however, in Michèle Gurdal’s magnificent album, entitled ‘Extase’ and taking us through the complete Etudes (minus the first study from Op 65). Elsewhere she journeys from the ripely Romantic Etudes of Opp 2 and 8 – from a Chopin-inspired idiom, though one already alive with Scriabin’s distinctive Russian tang – through Op 42 and on to the edge of the composer’s final obscurity/enlightenment. Throughout her very taxing programme, Gurdal plays with a romantic fullness and a lack of inhibition that makes you fall in love with Scriabin’s early and glittering outpouring. Playing over a wide dynamic range, thundering and caressing with equal conviction, her lavish pedalling allows her an exceptional breadth and colour; and if her rubato is fulsome, it is never less than idiomatic. It would be hard to imagine a more committed response to Scriabin’s kaleidoscopic changes of mood. This ardent and indeed superb recital is well recorded and comes with an interview in which Gurdal discusses her love of Scriabin.