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Boris Bekhterev plays Scriabin -
reviewed by JOHN BELL YOUNG

'Mr Bekhterev emerges as one of the greatest Scriabin interpreters of all.'

Skrjabin. Boris Bekhterev, pianist (p) 2001 Phoenix


Among the brighter stars of the late 19th and early 20th century musical cosmos, Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) may well have been the most luminous. That explains in part the title of this CD, which refers specifically to a description he often wrote in his scores to evoke a fanciful mood or gesture. Fiercely independent, Scriabin established a new harmonic hierarchy that drew its inspiration, consciously and unconsciously, from any number of sources, not the least of which was ancient Orthodox liturgical chant. That explains in part why Scriabin and his aesthetic agenda have long been the subject of one apocryphal myth after another, thanks to the vagaries and distortions of popular culture, and to the fairy tales perpetuated by his most famous, but least competent biographer, the late Faubion Bowers. But in fact Scriabin's musical ideas, which blossomed into full maturity at the turn of the century, owed allegiance to the symbolist ideology of Russia's Silver Age, and specifically that of the so-called Mystical Anarchists. This group, comprised of celebrated Russian poets, painters and musicians, whose number included Vyacheslav Ivanov, Jurgis Balturshatis and Alexander Blok, challenged the rabid nationalism of an earlier generation, exemplified by the music of Rimsky, Balakirev, and Mussorgsky. Viewing art as the essence of reality, rather than its representation, they fully expected to enlighten mankind, transforming it physically and spiritually through the mediation of music, painting and poetry.

Scriabin's youthful compositions reflect to a large degree the influence of Chopin. He appropriated the forms and even the names of that composer's most famous works, writing dozens of preludes, mazurkas, scherzos and waltzes. But as time passed, he moved into a highly specific genre, the musical 'poem' and the single movement sonata, which gave voice to his fascination with mystical symbolism. With the exception of his symphonic works, Scriabin rarely ventured outside of miniature forms, fashioned with lapidary finesse. He eviscerated his mature music of any harmonic center; imbuing it with a certain ambiguity, born of wholetone and octatonic scales, that symbolized the dissolution or transcendence of the ego in a kind of victory of the immaterial.

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Copyright © 13 February 2002 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA





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