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Scriabin Early Piano Music

Stephen Coombs (piano)

Hyperion Helios CDH 55286

This disc contrasts with Coombs’ similar, but generally less accessible project to record the piano works of Glazunov (see here for review). This, instead, is a delightful and interesting CD, played with protean sensitivity to the various styles in which Scriabin learned to express himself as a student. It is also well-recorded, and re-issued at lower price only half a dozen years after its first appearance.

Scriabin’s greatness as a mature composer has obscured the skill and attractiveness of his early works. Almost everything on this CD was written before he was twenty, including a student Fugue (set him by Arensky) whose strength and facility rightly made it required study for Russian conservatoire students. As an adolescent composer, almost a prodigy (the earliest work was written at the age of eleven).

There are plenty of highlights. The Nocturne in A flat is reminiscent both of Chopin’s Etude Op 10 No 11 (as Coombs says in his own liner note), and would also fit comfortably in Liszt’s Annee de Pelegrinage Year 1. The Mazurkas are entirely idiomatic, the original conclusion (as a sonata to the better-known Allegro appassionato Op 4) refreshing.

This CD is also convenient in collecting the works that do not fit into the established 'sets' of Scriabin's oeuvre (preludes, etudes, and so forth); excellent Tony Faulkner recording, less than ten years old at first issue - the original cover is reproduced here to show Hyperion's habit of acknowledging original artwork in re-issue. If you want this repertoire, don't hesitate.

Ying Chang