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8.553600 - SCRIABIN: Mazurkas (Complete)

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) Complete Mazurkas

Alexander Scriabin was a musical visionary, a genius, and an individualist with a strong, artistic voice, Born in Moscow on 6th January, 1872, the son of an accomplished pianist, he began music studies early, entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1888. There he studied with Safonov, Sergey Taneyev and Arensky, the last also Rachmaninov's teacher. In 1892 the Moscow Conservatory awarded Scriabin their highest honour, a Gold Medal, for his achievement as a pianist. During this period he began composing piano miniatures, which were published by Jurgenson and attracted the attention of the foremost publisher in Russia, Belyayev, who decided to sponsor the young musician, give him a handsome contract for his compositions and subsidise a tour for him as a piano virtuoso in programmes of his own works.

From 1898 to 1903, Scriabin taught the piano at the Moscow Conservatory. Teaching, however, proved a painful chore to him, and he resigned to devote his time to composition and piano recitals, abandoning Russia for Western Europe for some six years and in 1906 touring the United States with great success. During this period his compositions were undergoing a radical change, largely owing to his increasing interest in mysticism and philosophy. In his Third Symphony, written in 1903, subtitled The Divine Poem, he represented man's escape from the shackles of religion and of his own past in ecstatic and triumphant music. His last two completed orchestral works were The Poem of Ecstasy, music which he said depicted the "ecstasy of unfettered action," and Prometheus' The Poem of Fire, "For my part," he once declared, "I prefer Prometheus or Satan, the prototype of revolt and individuality. Here I am my own master. I want truth, not salvation." In Prometheus: The Poem of Fire he described the omnipotence of the "creative will." Scriabin died in Moscow on 27th April, 1915.

During his short life of 43 years, Scriabin wrote three symphonies, two symphonic poems, variations for string quartet, a romance for French horn, a romance for voice, one piano concerto, and more than two hundred piano compositions. Among these piano works are the 23 Mazurkas, spanning a creative period from 1884 to 1903.

The mazurka, also called mazur and mazurek, has its origin in a Polish national dance and can be traced as far back as the sixteenth century .Its name came from the Palatinate of Mazovia and its Mazur inhabitants, with their dance the mazurka, of which there are several types and regional variations. Some are known as kujawiaks or obertas, but all stem from the archaic polska. In its original form the mazurka was a folk dance-song, in 314 time, accented on the second beat, the accompaniment usually being provided by the singing and hand-clapping of the dancers. Mazurkas are often performed by four or eight couples, who are allowed a great deal of freedom in their choices of steps, Although of Polish origin, the mazurka was also, for many years, danced in all parts of Russia. A peculiar characteristic of many composed mazurkas is the use of a repeated bass pattern, suggesting the drone bass of an instrument such as the hurdy-gurdy or bagpipe. Although many Polish and Russian composers at the end of the eighteenth century were writing mazurkas, it was Chopin who developed the dance into an instrumental art form, as Liszt confirmed: "The latent and unknown poetry, which was only indicated in the original Polish Mazurkas, was divined, developed, and brought to light by Chopin. Preserving their rhythm, he ennobled their melody, enlarged their proportions and wrought into their tissues harmonic lights and shadows, as new in themselves as were the subjects to which he adapted them."

It was Chopin's highly pianistic mazurkas that were the models for Russian composers. Beginning with Mikhail Glinka, Anton Rubinstein and Mili Balakirev, the Russian version of the keyboard mazurka developed, with virtually every Russian composer of the nineteenth and early twentieth century making their contribution, including Scriabin. His earliest experiments in the form seemingly date from 1884 and 1886, although some sources indicate 1889 as the date of composition. The Mazurka in B minor and the Mazurka in F major were written when Scriabin was twelve or fourteen years old. Although pianistic and imaginative, in these pieces Scriabin had not yet found his distinctive voice. The two mazurkas appeared in print in 1893, but were never assigned an opus number. Until the 1940s they had been excluded from the Scriabin catalogue, but were then published in an edition edited by the Russian pianist Konstantin Igumnov.

The Ten Mazurkas, Opus 3, were written between 1888 and 1890. At this time Scriabin was still an adolescent, but he was already finding something of the musical language so evident in later works. The ten mazurkas were published in two volumes by Jurgenson in 1893. Starting with the very first mazurka in the set, the Mazurka in B minor, the first bar reveals a characteristic tendency. Virtually all biographers of Scriabin dismiss these early works as under the influence of Chopin or Schumann. Although one may hear a harmonic turn or melodic phrase that reminds one of these composers, Scriabin creates mazurkas that are far more distinctive. Each one in the set is a poetic improvisation, full of magic and charm. The second, the Mazurka in F sharp minor, contains fresh modulations at each bar. The third, the Mazurka in G minor, is brimming with melancholy, reminiscent of Chopin. The fourth, the Mazurka in E major, has a floating, graceful theme. The Mazurka in D sharp minor, the fifth in the collection, is contemplative and the melodic line is more complicated. There are definite glimpses of later Scriabin works in the shadows of this innocent work. The sixth, the Mazurka in C sharp minor, is a curious, scherzo- like piece, with a pleading meno mosso section in G sharp minor. Next is the Mazurka in E minor, full of passion and with an unforgettable descending musical line. The eighth, the Mazurka in B flat minor, contains dusty echoes of Chopin memories, almost dream-like, with peculiar Scriabinesque glimpses. The ninth of the set, the Mazurka in G sharp minor, is regal and distinguished. Scriabin omits a tempo marking, but a deep melancholy pervades the work, despite some stormy interludes. The very charming tenth Mazurka in E flat minor, is wistful and playful. Scriabin weaves a complex tapestry here, with a middle section full of pathos and more glimpses of his developing musical characteristics.

The Nine Mazurkas, Opus 25, were written between 1898 and 1899 and published by Belyayev. They were composed during the first year of Scriabin's professorship at the Moscow Conservatory. Stylistically, he had now found a voice, having established himself with three piano sonatas, the Twelve Etudes, Opus 8, and numerous distinctive preludes. The opening Mazurka in F minor is very Romantic and has a tempestuous beginning, lightened to some extent by a sunnier section, although the work, as a whole is tense. The second, the Mazurka in C major, is reminiscent of the Sonata No.3 in F sharp minor, Opus 23. The third, the Mazurka in E minor, marked lento, once again shows the contemplative and improvisatory Scriabin. The Mazurka in E major, the fourth of the set, meanders about the keyboard in a carefree manner. Here there is no gloom, but deep emotion and thought.

The fifth, the Mazurka in C sharp minor, is declamatory. The composer is the orator , vehement in his message and at times unsettling. The Mazurka in F sharp major which follows possesses plaintive charm and a rocking melodic structure, ending exultantly. The seventh, the Mazurka in F sharp minor, is no less charming than its predecessor, but the musical universe here is more anxious and hurried. The Mazurka in B major, marked Allegretto, breathes an air of relaxation after the tension of number seven, but Scriabin cannot help reminding us that not all is peace and quiet. The last mazurka in the set, the Mazurka in E flat minor, is full of beautiful modulatory material and harmonic wealth.

The Two Mazurkas, Opus 40, were written in 1903 and published the following year by Belyayev. Contemporaneous with his Sonata No.4 in F sharp major, Opus 30 and the Satanic Poem in C major, Opus 36, these last mazurkas are more ecstatic and spiritual, full of poetic sense and improvisatory élan. The Mazurka in D flat major begins delicately, then moves into a fiery rhythmic display, to end unexpectedly in a puff of smoke. The second, the Mazurka in F sharp major, is graceful and fantasy-like. These two mazurkas leave the listener in an exotic perfumed room, caressed by enchanting sounds and wishing for more.

Marina and Victor Ledin

Beatrice Long
Beatrice Long is one of America's finest young pianists. She has received top awards at numerous competitions, including the Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition, the Young Keyboard Artist Association International Competition, the AM SA 1990 World Piano Competition and the Taipei International Piano Competition. She has appeared as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, the Prince George Philharmonic in Washington, D.C. and many others. Beatrice

Long has given concerts throughout the United States, Central America, Southeast Asia and in France and has been invited to play in prestigious concert series and festivals such as the Ravinia Festival, Fontainebleau and Château de Lourmarin. Her teachers include Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Leon Fleisher, Seymour Lipkin and Fou Ts'ong. She is also active in chamber music, performing with some of the best young musicians, and is in demand as a teacher. For five years she was a member of the faculty at Peabody Preparatory and has taught master- classes in America and Asia.

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