Scriabin, A.: Mazurkas (Complete), Opp. 3, 25, 40
Alessandro Deljavan, Piano
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As a child Scriabin slept with printed music by Chopin under his pillow, so the story goes. Whether or not this is true, it is certain that the young Scriabin was obsessed by Chopin. All of his early works were for his own instrument, the piano, like Chopin, and his music followed genres and forms characteristic of Polish composer - Preludes, Impromptus, Etudes, Waltzes, Nocturnes, Scherzos, Sonatas, Fantaisies, even a Polonaise, and, of course, Mazurkas.
Chopin composed 59 Mazurkas over the complete span of his creative life - his very last composition was a Mazurka. Scriabin published only 21 which he gathered into three opus numbers. He composed them between 1888 when he was 16, and 1903 when he was 27. In the last 16 years of his life, Scriabin produced no further Mazurkas as he voyaged out onto previously unimagined and unexplored harmonic seas, although he remained fond of some of them and often included a few on his recital programs. Most of his piano studies were under severe supervision of the leading teacher of the era, Nikolai Sverov, who insisted on developing broad musical and cultural awareness as well as on keyboard discipline. His principal composition teachers were Sergey Taneyev, with whom he got along, and Alexander Alyabayev, with whom he didn't. Among Sverov's his other pupils were Rachmaninoff and two of the most important Russian pianists who lived to make recordings - including early recordings of Scriabin's music, Alexander Goldenweiser and Nikolai Igumnov, along with Goldenweiser's most important pupil Samuil Feinberg. The most famous Russian Scriabin pianist was Vladimir Sofronitsky who married Scriabin's daughter, although he never met the composer, who had died. Sofronitsky's Scriabin recordings are almost comprehensive, although he recorded only a handful of Mazurkas.
From all accounts, Scriabin was a superb pianist who could hold audiences spellbound with his control of dynamics and tone colors. He did have small hands, so it is interesting to see how full the Mazurkas are of wide stretches particularly for the left hand. Scriabin recorded only player-piano rolls and the ones he made for the Welte-Mignon firm in 1910 include a single Mazurka, Op. 40, No. 2 which is delightful and notable for the extreme liberties he takes with the printed text.
A major turning point in Scriabin's international reputation was an all-Scriabin LP that Vladimir Horowitz recorded in 1955. That opened the floodgates and today every ambitious young pianist studies and plays several of Scriabin's 10 extended Piano Sonatas as well as various Preludes and Etudes. The Mazurkas remain in a specialised category - a few pianists have recorded all of them, sometimes in sets of the complete piano music, but they still do not turn up frequently in recital and competition programs.
Scriabin's Mazurkas encompass a wide range of tempos, keys, moods, and emotions. All but one of the Op. 3 Mazurkas are in minor keys; the Op. 25 set alternates major and minor keys. Often the pianist must reconcile apparently conflicting directions - one Mazurka is marked "Con passione" with a piano dynamic, for example.
The basic form of a Mazurka doesn't change much. It is usually a fast dance in 3/4 time, often with some form of emphasis (metrical or dynamic) on the second or third beat. But a Mazurka is not a grid - there is abundant room for tempo changes, variety of dynamics, and rubato, for example; most of Scriabin's Mazurkas include a contrasting central section. Moderation is a key ingredient - only two of them are marked "Allegro," and most of them end quietly. A few have an entertaining Scherzando element, and No. 6 of Op. 3 has a lot of Lisztian fun with leaps into the highest notes of the piano. Scriabin marks No. 5 of Op. 3 "Doloroso," and the music winds and twists around itself. Op. 25 No. 9 is marked "Mesto" ("Mournful") and it is intense although also marked "Sottovoce" ("holding it in" or "under the breath"). Most of the Mazurkas end quietly and although they pose substantial rhythmic and technical difficulties despite the almost consistent avoidance of display elements.
The first Mazurka has a characteristic rhythmic snap and Scriabin seems to be pouring in as much ornamentation as he can. The ornamental element vanishes over the sequence of Mazurkas and they become more distilled and intense, more chromatic and harmonically adventurous. Most of them richly reward repeated close attention and it is fair to say that in imitating Chopin's voice, Scriabin discovered his own.
Chopin's Mazurkas were the strongest initial influences, but Scriabin's predecessors Balakirev, Tchaikovsky and all composed Mazurkas, which he must have known, and Scriabin in turn probably influenced subsequent Mazurka composers, some of whom one might not expect, like Debussy and Faure.
Alessandro Deljavan first started studying works of Scriabin when he was 12 and learned the Fifth Sonata at 14. One of his most influential early teachers was a master of the Chopin Mazurkas, Fou Ts'ong, and in the course of time Deljavan made one of the best modern recordings of the Chopin Mazurkas. He says, "Because of Fou, l am very connected to the Mazurka style and I feel extremely comfortable with the dance element. Scriabin arrived at a place all his own, way beyond anything related to Chopin." Text by (C) Richard Dyer.
"Deljavan's performance was revelatory in every respect. Everyone in the hall knew that they were hearing something special-something wonderful-from the very first notes. At the end, the spontaneous eruption of cheers was so different from the perfunctory ovation that any decent performance is awarded, that being a part of the thrilled crowd was a unique experience in itself." -Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones
Mazurkas (Complete), Opp. 3, 25, 40
Alessandro Deljavan, Piano
Prod. No.: 367 / 2022
Cat. No: OC23090B
No. Album(s): 0
Recorded @ Saletta acustica 'Eric James', Pove del Grappa, 2023
Sound engineer: Alessandro Simonetto
Photo/paint on cover: N/A
Equipment used: N/A
Instrument(s) used: Steinway & Sohns D-274 piano, 'Audi-O'
An OnClassical prod., © 2023
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