Alexander Scriabin

Preludes (24) for piano, Op. 11

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This set, which covers a period of eight years and comprises Scriabin's largest collection of keyboard works, contains as wide a sampling of his art from his early years as any, and while it may not claim the musical importance of many of the later sets of Preludes and Etudes, it is nevertheless a notable collection.

    These Preludes cover the 24 keys, running in the usual pattern, beginning with C major and A minor and ending with F major and D minor. None of the works here come close to Scriabin's mature or late style, though more than a few augur future stylistic traits, as well as divulge Scriabin's burgeoning genius at keyboard coloration and unusual harmonies. The Second, in A minor, marked Allegretto, may not quite enter the mystical world inhabiting so much of the composer's music after 1903, but its strange, wandering theme and dark harmonies are wonderfully atmospheric and advanced for their time.

    The E minor Fourth (Lento) is simple and melancholy, its barren textures foreshadowing the often desolate moods in later works. The next, in D major (Andante cantabile), is more typical of his style in this period, with its hints of Chopin and Liszt and a more Romantic demeanor. The F sharp minor Eighth is among the better pieces in the set, offering a dark, profound theme whose long-breathed and angular manner attest to the composer's considerable thematic invention. No. 11, in G major (Allegro assai), is dreamy and shows hints of Impressionism, then just being developed by Debussy.

    The boisterous 14th, in E flat minor (Presto), provides a break from the generally subdued moods in the surrounding Preludes and also features an abrupt, dramatic ending in the bass register. The very Lisztian 16th, in B flat minor, marked Misterioso, is indeed mysterious, mired in the lower ranges of the keyboard and engendering much suspense in its march-like tread through dark terrain. The elegant E flat major 19th (Affetuoso) at times sounds like a parody of Chopin, but appears to employ a variation on the theme Scriabin used in the D sharp minor Etude No. 12, from Op. 8 (1894).

    The robust muscularity of the C minor 20th (Appassionato) is contrasted most effectively by the mesmeric quiet and gentleness of No. 21, in B flat major (Andante). The set closes with a rousing, nervous Presto in D minor, whose big chords repeat as though stuttering in delivering its Rachmaninovish theme.

    One might observe from this partial summary that the even-numbered Preludes appear to be the more substantial in the set. That may be the case -- certainly they are longer and often of greater depth. Performance of the whole collection would last around 35 minutes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 1, in C major
    2. No. 2, in A minor
    3. No. 3, in G major
    4. No. 4, in E minor
    5. No. 5, in D major
    6. No. 6, in B minor
    7. No. 7, in A major
    8. No. 8, in F sharp minor
    9. No. 9, in E major
    10. No. 10, in C sharp minor
    11. No. 11, in B major
    12. No. 12, in G sharp minor
    13. No. 13, in G flat major
    14. No. 14, in E flat minor
    15. No. 15, in D flat major
    16. No. 16, in B flat minor
    17. No. 17, in A flat major
    18. No. 18, in F minor
    19. No. 19, in E flat major
    20. No. 20, in C minor
    21. No. 21, in B flat major
    22. No. 22, in G minor
    23. No. 23, in F major
    24. No. 24, in D minor

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 BIS BIS 2365
    2019 Brilliant Classics BRI 95651
    2018 Gramola GRAM 99158
    2018 Pavane ADW 7588
    2017 Acousence Classics ACOCD 13017
    2016 Decca
    2016 Decca 4812491
    2016 Steinway & Sons STNS 30045
    2016 Piano Classics PCL 0103
    2016 Digressione Music DIG 56
    2015 Challenge Classics CC 72684
    2015 Hyperion CDH 55450
    2013 Melodiya / Melody MELCD 1002066
    2013 Odradek ODR 305
    2013 Dreyer-Gaido DGCD 21080
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2011 Capriccio Phoenix / Capriccio Records 49586
    2011 Solo Musica SM149
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779527
    2010 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2010 Alto / Musical Concepts 1068
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Erato
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099962865
    2009 Aeon AECD 0750
    2009 Avie 2168
    2007 Arte Nova 654220
    2006 Caprice Records 21742
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 65560
    2005 MDG 6041318
    2004 Zig Zag Territoires 030902
    2003 Dynamic 416
    2002 Vox CD5X3606
    2002 Music & Arts CD1098
    2001 Tudor Records 793
    2001 Tahra 409-412
    2001 Hyperion 67057/8
    1999 Koch Schwann 314312
    1998 Gallo 966/67
    1998 Camtre Productions 00001
    1998 Virgin 45247
    1997 Collins Records 14962
    1995 ASV CDDCA919
    1994 Phoenix USA 114
    1992 Nimbus 5026
    Adda 244052
    Dante 9115
    REM 311211
    Denon Records 78772
    Dan Sabo
    Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 82876 76510-2