The veteran Russian pianist Dmitri Alexeev, now British based, has a fine track record with Scriabin. His recording ofPrometheus with Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra has long been highly esteemed and a more recent set of the Scriabin piano sonatas has also been well received. Here he tackles Scriabin’s Piano Études, which are very demanding sets of pieces. Apart from the Op.65 set these belong to Scriabin’s early and middle periods, in which he is still fairly close to Chopin. However, you can already hear the mature Scriabin developing, with the use of extreme keys, complex textures, frequent use of triplet rhythms, polyrhythms (5 against 3, 4 against 3 and so on), imperious summons and the kind of leaping skip characteristic of Scriabin’s music at all periods.
Alexeev immediately impresses with his rich full sound, subtle use of the pedal and considerable rhythmic freedom and use of rubato. These were apparently also characteristics of Scriabin’s own playing. He balances the chords well, spreading the bigger ones as Scriabin himself must have done since they often stretch to well over an octave and the composer had small hands. He negotiates the complex textures well, bringing out the parts which require it and relishing the often luscious harmony. In short, this is playing in the grand manner.