Boris Bekhterev plays Scriabin -
reviewed by JOHN BELL YOUNG
'Mr Bekhterev emerges as one of the greatest Scriabin interpreters of all.'
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
Copyright © 13 February 2002
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA
CD INFORMATION - PHOENIX 01708
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