SCRIABIN: Twelve Etudes, Op. 8; Twenty-four Preludes, Op. 11

SCRIABIN: Twelve Etudes, Op. 8; Twenty-four Preludes, Op. 11. Vladimir Sofronitzki, piano. LE CHANT DU MONDE LDC-278765 [AAD]; 60:08.

Scriabin’s Etudes, Op. 8, date largely from 1894, while most of the Preludes, Op. 11, were composed during the following year. Despite their virtual contemporaneity, the Etudes are brilliantly pianistic exercises that fully inhabit the rhetorical world of Chopin, while the Preludes, though clearly indebted to Scriabin’s Polish idol, are more adventurous stylistically and reveal much more of the 23-year old’s own personality and temperament.

Complete recordings of Opp. 8 and 11 are not abundant, most pianists apparently preferring to assemble their own groupings for recital purposes. Hence, this release is a discographic convenience, though itself compiled from recordings made at various times between 1946 and 1960 and collated so as to present Opp. 8 and 11 complete. The Etudes were mostly done in the late 1940s, while the Preludes date largely from the early 1950s.

Vladimir Sofronitzki (1901-1961) was Scriabin’s son-in-law, and this relationship, along with the pianist’s affinity for Scriabin’s music, have given him a legendary and nearly divine status as a Scriabin interpreter. Of course, Sofronitzki was only fourteen at the time of the composer’s death, so that the degree of direct influence that might have been exerted is questionable. I find Sofronitzki’s tone to be so unpleasantly harsh and brittle as to make these performances difficult to endure. They are certainly sympathetic from an idiomatic and interpretive standpoint. However, the general level of Scriabin performance has reached the point today where technical and interpretive mastery is not as scarce as it once was. Thus I do not find these performances to be revelatory to any great extent. Marred further by dropped notes and poor recording quality, these reissues cannot be highly recommended, except for their documentary value.