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Mystical Melodies

New York
Baryshnikov Arts Center Jerome Robbins Theater 450 West 37th Street
11/04/2011 -  
Alexander Scriabin: Vers la flamme, Opus 72 – Quatre préludes, Opus 22 – Feuillet d’album in F-sharp major, Opus Post. – Etudes, Opus 6 – Désir – Caresse dansée – Rêverie – Danse languide – Nuances – Fragilité – Valse in A-flat major – Feuillet d’album, Opus 58 – Poème fantastique, Opus 45, No 2 – Masque – Etrangeté, Opus 63 No 1 & No 2 – Poème languide, Opus 52, No 3 – Poème ailé, Opus 51, No. 3 – Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, Opus 30

Eteri Andjaparidze (Piano), Jennifer Tipton (Lighting)

J. Tipton lighting (© Coco T. Dawg)

Alexander Scriabin–composer, pianist, mystic, futurist–might have loved having a lighting designer for an hour of his music. For Scriabin was equally noted for his synaesthesia.

Like his colleague Rimski-Korsakov, Scriabin had no choice but to hear colors and see music. In the world of Scriabin, the first measures of The International in C Major, would be painted Orange-Rose, Red, Bluish-White, Yellow-Brilliant, Red, Orange-Rose, Bluish-White, Green, Red etc.

Not that the composer was interested in the toils of Russia during the beginning of the 20th Century. He cared less about “the wretched of the earth” than the “angels of the air.” Concertizing throughout Europe, he wrote and played endlessly, but his heart belonged to “The Mystery.” The world would come to an end, he would be the new Messiah, and material things would be transmuted into a Supreme Consciousness. Whew!

Alas, the best laid plans of mystics and Messiahs can come to an unprepossessing finish. Scriabin died of a lip infection. If only he had lived until the Age of Chapstick... But that is another story.

During his earthly life, though, Scriabin put his playing to good use. And the uninterrupted hour of piano music played by the Georgian-born Eteri Andjaparidze showed what a wonderful pianist–without affecation, without undue precious moments for the early works or jumpy operatic leaps for the later mystical pieces–could show about the composer.

Scriabin did get his lighting, but Jennifer Tipton, working with subtle color variations on huge globes on the screen, ignored the Scriabin dicta and vaguely paralleled some of the emotions of the work. For the sake of the music, it was restful, not distracting and gave Ms. Andjaparidze the chance to show her artistry of the night.

E. Andjaparidze (© Courtesy of the Artist)

She is an undoubted artist, with apparently scrupulous attention to Scriabin’s meticulous descriptions of the music.

When thinking Scriabin, one inevitably thinks Vladimir Horowitz: playing with panache, with glitter, with the sense that this music is to attract listeners, rather than move them. Ms. Andjaparidze played the first work–that emotion-filled Towards the Flame–with that kind of urgency, that kind of emotion. She played the final movement of the Fourth Sonata with such dazzling brilliance that it was actually elating.

The rest of the program, though, mainly with works which were unfamiliar to me, mainly pieces from both the early and later periods, had a unity, an understated beauty, and a realization that Scriabin was very much a figure of the Nineteenth Century.

Listening to an hour of Scriabin (and that hour passed by all too swiftly), one realizes that, despite his zeitgeist of Theosophical thinking, he had musically come at the wrong time. The “mystic” chords could have come from Tristan, the melodies from Chopin, the poetic form from Liszt, the harmonies from Debussy or Ravel. Had he lived longer, he might have become a Russian atonalist.

In other words, Scriabin hovered over a boiling pot of influences, sniffing up the aromas, adding his own perfumes, and making his own statement.

Certain composers, Liszt being the prime example, have been rediscovered these past decades, looking through the vulgarities, to find a truly great musician. After Ms. Andjaparidze’s attractive concert, one doubts that Scriabin will ever have the same renaissance. Within those limits, though, he is still an attractive and certainly unique composer.

Harry Rolnick



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