Alexander Scriabin Etude Op8 No12
in D# minor




I wrote these notes three or four years ago and have since learned the piece myself. While I do not pretend to play as well as any of these great pianists, being a painist of little talent myself, I have changed mu views on how I think it ought to be played. I am now satisfied neither by those who feel it needs to be played with a headlong impetuosity, their admirable technique notwithstanding, nor by those whose souls are need of discovering its hidden depths of emotion and feel inclined to help it along by interpreting it. Everything Scriabin had to say is already in the score, the notes, the delicious harmonies, and the brilliant structure.

I find myself responding very warmly to way it is played by Dinorah Varsi whose pace allows each note to be caressed, each phrase to be shaped, and each expressive offering to be experienced as a gentle finishing touch. This is of particular interest to me as I did not even mention her performance the first time around.

There are also a number of performances new to this page: Sofronitsky, Stanislav Neuhaus, Matsuev, a second Cortot (1923) which I love, and a third Horowitz (1982) which I prefer to his others. There are also excellent performances by Lazar Berman, Viktor Merzhanov, Pavel Serebryakov, and Anton Kuerti, and superb performances by Rosa Etkin, Adele Marcus, Mary Alberta Siloti (the great pianist's daughter-in-law) and Elena Kuschnerova. The performance by Ginzburg, ordinarily a pianist I much admire, is just plain out of control. [I wrote these last words some time ago. I have revised my opinion which I confess was more influenced by the number of wrong notes than by Ginzburg's concept of the work. I have now gotten past the wrong notes and feel very positively about about the whole.]

But my favorite of all, of course, is by Moura Lympany.


The Scriabin Etude Op8 No12 may well be the best known and most loved of Scriabin's works for the piano. It is youthful, vigorous, technically demanding piano music in the grand late Romantic style, written at a point in Scriabin's life when he and Rachmaninov were still headed in the same direction.

So as to set the stage, the first two interpretations of this piece are by Scriabin himself and Rachmaninov. This is one case where the composer's interpretation is without any doubt the best of all. Scriabin plays it very fast as, in my view, the forward motion of the music demands, and the etude is driven to its irresistable conclusion leaving the listener breathless.


There are several truly notable performance of this Scriabin Etude among the others. Simon Barere's interpretation, while not quite as intensely compelling as Scriabin's, is very convincing. And Alfred Cortot takes a tempo more like that of Rachmaninov, wonderfully played, and in lieu of the breakneck speed plays with an intensity that results in a similar effect. And Nikolai Lugansky plays it beautifully.


There are two by Horowitz, an earlier recording which, while not near the class of the above mentioned performances, is nonetheless better than the very disappointing later one. Van Cliburn had recently won the Tchaikovsky Competition at the time of this was recorded. He has a big, powerful technique, but he too is reliant on the vertical structures of the piece which halts the impetus. I find the Berezovsky performance quite satisfying. He does not have the level of passion that I like, but he plays the piece very well and does nothing to contradict the essence of its meaning.

and Gavrylyuk gives a very exciting reading of the etude, passionate, and with some very effective ritards after which the pace is immediately resumed.


Kissin and Lang Lang, wildly popular pianists that they are, are problematic for me. They both have tremendous techniques, sometimes put at the service of the music, sometimes not. In this piece, Kissin plays like he is trying to punish the piano, the composer, and the listener. It is an unsatisfying, harsh performance, full of ugly sounds, the result of pounding, simply put.

Lang Lang, on the other hand, does a very credible job with the music. His tendency is to play softer passages with a beautiful touch, drawing out, ala Horowitz, every nuance. Why? Because he can, I suppose. But this etude does not call for it. It is still a very good performance, and Lang Lang has enviable technical capabilities.






ALEXANDER SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Russian pianist
Welte piano roll







SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Russian-American pianist







SIMON BARERE (1896-1951)
Russian-American pianist







ALEXANDER BRAILOWSKY (1896-1976)Ukranian-French pianist
recorded 1928-1934







ALFRED CORTOT (1877-1962)
French-Swiss pianist


unidentified piano roll






recorded in 1923







VLADIMIR SOFRONITSKY (1901-1961)
Russian Soviet pianist
recorded in 1960







VLADIMIR HOROWITZ (1903-1989)
Russian-American pianist


recorded in 1968






and somewhat later






recorded in 1982







GRIGORY GINZBURG (1904-1961)
Russian pianist







MARY ALBERTA SILOTI
20th century pianist
recorded in 1968







ADELE MARCUS (1906-1995)
American pianist
recorded in 1938







RÓŻA ETKIN (1908-1945)
Polish pianist







PAVEL SEREBRYAKOV(1909-1977)
Soviet Russian pianist
recorded in 1938







MOURA LYMPANY (1916-2005)
English pianist







VICTOR MERZHANOV (1919-2012)
Russian pianist







MORTON ESTRIN (b 1923)
American pianist







STANISLAV NEUHAUS (1927-1980)
Russian Soviet pianist
recorded in 1979







LOUISE BARFIELD
20th century American pianist







LAZAR BERMAN (1930-2005)
Soviet Russian pianist
recorded in 1976







ANTON KUERTI (b 1938)
Austrian-Canadian pianist
Op 8 complete - 12 in D♯ minor begins at 27:07







DINORAH VARSI (1939-2013)
Uruguayan pianist







VAN CLIBURN (b 1934)
American pianist
recorded in Moscow in 1960







BORIS BEREZOVSKY (b 1969)
RUSSIAN pianist







ALEXANDER GAVRYLYUK (b 1984)
Ukrainian pianist







EVGENY KISSIN (b 1971)
Russian pianist







ELENA KUSCHNEROVA
contemporary Russian pianist







NIKOLAI LUGANSKY (b 1972)
Russian pianist
recorded live in 2004







DENIS MATSUEV (b 1975)
Russian pianist







LANG LANG (b 1982)
Chinese pianist




















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