April 27 marks the centenary of the death of the Russian pianist and composer Alexander Scriabin. A friend and fellow student of Rachmaninov in Moscow, Scriabin enjoyed a very different and much shorter career. Initially famed as a concert pianist, his interest in philosophy and the theosophical theories of Madame Blavatsky influenced the form of his later compositions, particularly that of the larger-scale orchestral works. His Prometheus famously attempted to link symphonic music with a lighting display.
His life was gradually undermined by a growing self-absorption coupled with eccentric beliefs. Disparaged by many after his death, Scriabin's music is now fully rehabilitated and acknowledged as the work of one of the greatest early modern composers.
“This budget-priced production from the composer's compatriots certainly holds its own against all comers. Konstantin Scherbakov plays the concerto with steel and sensitivity in equal measure, and he's particularly successful in knitting together the loose architecture of the outer movements, while at the same time making the filigree piano writing sound like real Scriabin, rather than Chopin on steroids. The performance of Prometheus is physically exciting and has a naturalness of flow... The couplings, orchestrations of various short piano pieces, are also captivating and unique.”
Listen to an extract from Prometheus, The Poem of Fire
“...with the Kondrashin-trained Igor Golvschin in charge, this fine new recording - the first of what I hope will be a complete cycle - provides a serious challenge both to older Soviet-era accounts and more modern Western competition from Muti and Ashkenazy.” – BBC Music Magazine
“Again Naxos has produced an excellent recording. The sound is simply perfect. It has bite, but it's also wonderfully smooth. The conductor is young and talented, yet he is part of the great Russian tradition, and this is unmistakably a Russian interpretation. Many of us were fond of the Svetlanov LP; if that appealed to you, you will be grateful for what Naxos has done.” – American Record Guide
“Naxos has turned up trumps with the little-known Russian Evgeny Zarafiants. Rhythmically subtle (and continually supple), tonally expansive and dramatically wide-ranging, he plays this music with great conviction, and a technique which copes...with all challenges. Even in the most tempestuous and tortuous passages, his tone is never strident, and his harmonic colouring could profitably be emulated by many pianists of ten times his renown. This release can be highly recommended, not least for the excellent recorded sound.” – BBC Music Magazine
“These performances are very good indeed. Bernd Glemser has an excellent feel for the Scriabin world. He commands a keen imagination, a wide range of keyboard colour and he possesses an impressive technical address. No one buying these Sonatas will feel short-changed.” – Penguin Guide
“As sheer pianism this is a disc that requires to be heard by every lover of piano music. Scriabin lovers will find plenty to revel in and for the reader who is a newcomer to the music of this very special composer I can hardly imagine a better disc to gain insight into his world.” – MusicWeb International