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Scriabin: Piano Music - Poems, Waltzes, Dances

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Audio CD, May 26, 2009
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Scriabin: Piano Music - Poems, Waltzes, Dances + Rachmaninoff: Moments musicaux; Etudes-tableaux, Op. 33; Variations on a Theme of Corelli + Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonatas
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Numbered among the musical elect of her generation, the multi-award-winning Xiayin
Wang presents a recital of piano music that virtually spans Scriabin's career. The
mysterious impressionism of Vers la flamme (Towards the Flame) builds to an
exhilarating intensity that is matched by the two contrasting Poems. From his early
Waltzes and Polonaise, with their echoes of Chopin, via the rhapsodic abandon of the
Fantaisie, to the Two Dances, composed shortly before his death, these works chart an
almost mystical trajectory through the composer's life.


My encounters with the music of Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) have continued to be somewhat sporadic. Needless to say, I'm familiar with his widely recorded, expansive orchestral scores--the "Divine Poem" and "Poem of Ecstasy" Symphonies, as well as his symphonic tone poem Prometheus, "Poem of Fire"--but his very substantial body of works for solo piano, really the bulk of his output, is pretty much terra incognita to me, despite the fact that I did review a disc of the composer's mazurkas played by Eric Le Van as far back as 27:5 and, more recently, a CD that contained his F♯-Minor Piano Concerto in 32:1.

Having listened to this new release from pianist Xiayin Wang, I simply cannot imagine how or why I have managed to avoid Scriabin's solo piano aeuvre for so long. The music here, and Wang's playing of it are of an exquisite beauty beyond description. There is no need to recap Wang's biography or credentials; Peter J. Rabinowitz interviewed her for a feature article and review in 31:3. The three Scriabin pieces on the Marquis CD reviewed by Rabinowitz--the Deux Poèmes, op. 32, the Waltz, op. 38, and Vers la flamme, op. 72--are duplicated on the present Naxos album.

Wang presents her program in opus number order, which happens to correspond to the chronology as well. As one listens to Scriabin's progress from his early Waltz, op. 1, written in 1886 to his Two Dances, op. 73, written in 1914, the year before his death at the age of 43, one is reminded to an extent of Heinrich Heine's skewering of French Romantic poet and playwright Alfred de Musset, calling him "a young man with a great future behind him." Scriabin's earliest pieces--waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, polonaises, etudes, and mazurkas--mirror Chopin with uncanny similitude. By 1903, considered a dividing point in the composer's life and the beginning of his middle period, we get works like the Poème tragique, op. 34, and the Poème satanique, op. 36. Scriabin's writing is now on a grander scale, taking on a more symphonic weight, with the heavy chording and kinds of keyboard figurations more typical of Liszt and even Alkan.

By the time we get to the end--the Two Dances, op. 73--Scriabin, physically ill and most likely mentally unstable, is now totally consumed by mysticism, theosophy, and his theories of synesthesia (color hearing) in which specific keys and tonal centers are related to specific colors and corresponding emotional states. His never realized final opus magnum, Mysterium, was to be "a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about Armageddon, a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."

Scriabin's late piano pieces written around this time sound almost impressionistic, but not in a way that would be mistaken for Debussy. They are economical in material, built from minimal, somewhat static motifs, but quite extravagant in technical and expressive range. Vers la flamme is a good example. It's almost minimalist in its dependence on a single motivic gesture; but through cumulative piling on of keyboard sonorities rather than variation techniques, Scriabin maximizes its potential.

Pianist Xiayin Wang seems to have a very special affinity for Scriabin's music. But then she is not alone in being a proponent of these works. Both Ashkenazy for Decca and even earlier, Michael Ponti for Vox, essayed much of this repertoire. Ruth Laredo also made a significant contribution on Nonesuch, and Richter was by no means a stranger to Scriabin either. Still, there is something I find very appealing in Wang's playing. Her tone has a silvery quality to it, a lighter touch perhaps, that allows her to negotiate the more thunderous and tumultuous passages without sounding overly thick and heavy; and her approach in the quieter more lyrical pieces strikes me as quite poetic.

A beautiful recital by an up-and-coming young artist, captured in excellent sound by Naxos's recording team. Highly recommended. -- Fanfare, Jerry Dubbins, Nov/Dec 2009

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Valse in D-Flat Major 1:45$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Valse in F Minor, Op. 1 3:28$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Polonaise in B-Flat Minor, Op. 21 6:08$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Fantasie in B Minor, Op. 28 9:34Album Only
listen  5. 2 Poemes, Op. 32: No. 1 in F-Sharp Major 3:11$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  6. 2 Poemes, Op. 32: No. 2 in D Major 1:34$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Poeme Tragique, Op. 34 3:35$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Poeme Satanique, Op. 36 6:31$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Valse in A-Flat Major, Op. 38 6:27$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen10. Poeme, Op. 41: Poeme in D-Flat Major, Op. 41 4:39$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen11. 3 Pieces, Op. 52: No. 1. Poeme 2:19$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen12. 3 Pieces, Op. 52: No. 2. Enigme 1:06$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen13. 3 Pieces, Op. 52: No. 3. Poeme Languide 1:20$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen14. Feuillet d'album, Op. 58 1:44$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen15. Vers la flamme, Op. 72 5:56$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen16. 2 Dances, Op. 73: No. 1. Guirlandes 3:50$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen17. 2 Dances, Op. 73: No. 2. Flammes sombres 2:30$0.89  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Composer: Scriabin
  • Audio CD (May 26, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B0020LSWVQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,940 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 23, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Xiayin Wang (not to be confused with the better-known emerging Chinese pianist, Yuja Wang) has had the clever idea to record a CD of Scriabin piano pieces played in chronological order, beginning with two charming Chopinesque waltzes written when he was fourteen, and ending with Deux Danses, Op. 73, from the last year of his life. And much of the playing here is quite good. The little waltzes from his youth are played with charm and grace. The Polonaise in B Flat Minor, Op. 21, has the right amount of swing. But the big Fantaisie in B Minor, Op. 32, admittedly a loosely constructed work that can be hard to hold together, comes across as awkward, not thoroughly digested by Ms Wang. When we get to the Two Poems, Op. 32, one begins to hear more of the idiosyncratic and impressionistic Scriabin, but again there is some discrepancy in Wang's playing. The first Poem is simply gorgeous; the second -- the more dramatic of the two -- is played too bluntly, too brusquely. The same can be said for both the Poème tragique, Op. 34, and the Poème satanique, Op. 36. One gets the impression that Ms Wang is more comfortable in the dreamier, more soft-edged pieces as in her lovely playing of the Poème in D Flat Major, Op. 41. And so it goes.

The best known piece here -- and appropriately suggested as a theme of the entire album by Wang, whose booklet notes are helpfully informative -- is 'Vers la flamme' ('Toward the Flame'). This late piece has all of Scriabin's mysticism, his unique harmonies, his suggestions of darkness and brilliant points of light, and the beating of moths' wings. And Wang plays it beautifully, capturing its evanescent moods.

The CD ends with the Deux Danses, Op.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Pontus T. on November 5, 2009
Format: Audio CD
There is no question the reports about millions of Chinese children learning to play the piano are now resulting in a rapidly increasing number of professional pianists of Chinese origin. Xiayin Wang, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory, came to New York in 1997, but her career in the West only took pace the last few years. This represents her record debut on a 'major' label--which Naxos probably has to be called now, given its extensive worldwide distribution.

Scriabin's piano music more often than not is fiendishly difficult to bring off--on this disc represented by the Polonaise, Fantaisie and Vers la flamme. It is also uniquely beautiful, such as the Opp 32 & 41 Poems and the marvelous Op 38 Valse. Ms Wang deserves praise for her unusually well-chosen programme. As accurately pointed out by Scott Morrison, Wang is mostly successful in the more dreamy numbers--Opp 32/1, 41 & 52--whereas there is an overall shortage of adrenaline and forward momentum elsewhere. Moreover, she apparently struggles with the structure, myriad notes and multiple voices of the Polonaise (sample the middle G-flat-major section at 1:46) and above all the massive B-minor Fantaisie, where she gets more or less lost--and where her tone turns rather ugly in fortissimo passages (e.g. 5:02 and 8:27); that said, I have to give her the latter's second, D-major motif is gorgeously done (from 1:43).

Truly masterful Scriabin playing is hard to come by. Hamelin, Glemser and Sudbin come closest amongst modern pianists--whereas the names of Horowitz and Richter likely always will retain their place in collections of Scriabin's piano music. Lettberg's near-complete 8-disc survey is not quite great but good enough to be in a prominent position in any piano connoisseur's discography.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Flynn on September 12, 2009
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Recording is well made. Selections are a nice array of Scriabin's piano works. Xiayin Wang's playing is energetic, inspired, technically brilliant.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By EDWIN LARACUENTE on May 6, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Berger on December 8, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this CD because Ms. Wang was coming to Honolulu and I knew I would be meeting her. I was not disappointed by her performance on this CD nor by her performance in concert.

To elaborate: Her interpretations of Scriabin's melodies are soothing and relaxing as background music, yet also sufficiently intricate and engaging to reward attentive listening when the mood strikes.
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Scriabin: Piano Music - Poems, Waltzes, Dances
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