Extase, Michèle Gurdal's 2014 album of the etudes for piano by Alexander Scriabin, is a fascinating survey of these demanding pieces, which were composed between 1888 and 1912, showing Scriabin's development as a virtuoso pianist and composer. Profoundly influenced by Chopin, Scriabin's Etude No. 1 in C sharp minor, Op. 2, is the closest in style and expression, and the 12 Etudes of Op. 8 share much of the Romantic master's displays of technical brilliance blended with poetic melancholy. But by the time Scriabin wrote the 8 Etudes, Op. 42, he had cultivated a feeling for atmospheric and nearly impressionistic sonorities, similar to Debussy's, and in the Études of Op. 65, he had ventured beyond conventional piano writing into a mystical and increasingly atonal idiom, entirely identifiable as his own visionary music. Many crowd-pleasing pianists favor Scriabin's early, more approachable pieces, but Gurdal's thorough understanding of Scriabin's three stages gives her more authority and persuasiveness, and she is communicative and convincing in the whole oeuvre. This exciting debut on Challenge Classics promises great things to come, and if Gurdal records more Scriabin, particularly the sonatas and the preludes, there will be many appreciative listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson