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#365321 - 10/05/02 11:20 PM Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
I got my mitts on a book of Scriabin today. Can anyone recommend an accessible work by this composer for an intermediate-level student?

Presently I am also working on:
Chopin Prelude 28/15 \:D
Chopin Nocturne 27/2 \:\)
Rachmaninoff Etudes-Tableaux A-minor 39/2 ( measures 84-87)
and Mozart Bb Sonata K498a \:D

Before that, I emjoyed a couple of Schumanns (des Abends, Aufschwung), kind of OD'd on the simpler Debussy (Reverie, First Arabesque, Engulfed Cathedral, Clair de Lune, Girl with Flaxen Hair), and bit off too much Rachmaninoff (prelude 3/2: the tempo in the middle part was beyond me at the time. The performances I've heard of that section both sounded way too fast; why have all that complexity and bury it in velocity?).

I was going to look into some more Beethoven, but for some reason the name of Scriabin kept popping into my mind, and I don't know why. If I've ever actually heard any Scriabin, I wasn't paying attention, because I don't remember any; and today I find myself confronted with a book of his scores and don't know where to start.

Any Scriabin appreciator/players out there?
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365322 - 10/05/02 11:32 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4110
I personally find a great connection with Scriabin. The etude Op. 2,1 is a great piece, full of elegant beauty and accesible to the hands. I find his best work in his piano sonatas. I don't know how ambitious you are, but the 3rd sonata is absolutely marvelous. All of the movements have a certain melodic or rhythmic charm that is unbelievable. At a bit harder level is the 5th and 10th sonatas, pure pleasure! If you find these too hard at first, he has a smattering of Mazurkas, preludes, and etudes that are technically accesible. Good luck!

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#365323 - 10/05/02 11:37 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
curry Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/02
Posts: 3769
Loc: Hamilton Twp, NJ
Try the Etude in c# minor Op.2,No.1 ,or the Etude in d# minor Op.8,No.12 Also The Poem in D Op.32,No.2 These works will put you in the right frame of mind for Scriabin.
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#365324 - 10/06/02 02:27 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
nancyww Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/02
Posts: 585
Loc: central oregon
Have you looked at the op.11 preludes? They are short and there are 24 of them I believe. So you should be able to find one (or more) that you like that is well within your ability.

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#365325 - 10/06/02 04:10 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/02
Posts: 65
Loc: Los Angeles
Hi victorialis,

Although Scriabin the character tends not to be as famous as he deserves, his works are quite famous. As you begin to listen to some of his works, you will most certainly recognize the melodies. Sonatas #5 and #10 are very famous I suppose, because I recognized them when I first listened to them on a CD. Etudes Op.8#2, #6, #12 and Op42#5 as well. Some of the preludes also have melodies that sounded very familiar to me, on the first active listening.
His angry and energetic style is really one of a kind. There are quiet and peaceful moments, then suddenly you are engulfed in a maelstrom of notes. Notice how he often superimposes two different melodies (one in each hand); I think that is one of his signature moves.

I read somewhere that his most accessible works are some of his mazurkas, but I have never seen the scores. I have tried half a dozen of his etudes. Some are not too difficult (Op.2#1, Op.8#4, #8), Op8#12 is very nice and although it has cross rythms and octaves, it is not the hardest one of the set. But most of them are monstrously hard: Op42#1 where you play 9 against 5 all the way through. Op42#5 with an insane number of annoying sustained notes, and very difficult broken chords in the left hand. Op8#3, should be nicknamed the crab etude \:D , try it and you will see why. Op65#1(Scriabin himself wasn't able to play it :p ) Op8#7 ad #10 , well almost all of them...

So definitely check out the Mazurkas scores; that's what I am about to do myself. They shouldn't be too hard and they have sublime melodies like you wouldn't even believe.

Oh here are the works I recommend
Op42#5 of course \:\)
Sonatas
#1 (my personal favourite, gotta love that third movement)
#5 (very difficult to listen to the first 10 times, but when you understand how it works it turns out to be an amazingly beautiful piece, you will never get tired of it)
#10 Scriabin called it the Sonata of insects. The nickname probably refers to the numerous trills. Beautiful chromatic melody like no other I have heard.
Mazurkas Op3
Preludes Op11
_________________________
"Music, even when picturing something that is ugly, must itself remain beautiful."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

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#365326 - 10/06/02 12:54 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
Most excellent on high. I knew you guys would give me a good steer.

This book is the complete preludes and etudes. I've made notes of all remarks re sonatas and mazurkas for later reference.

And the winner, by popular acclaim, is:

Etude in C# minor, Op.2, No.1.

The runner-up: Etude in F# minor, Op.8, No.2

(I didn't go for Etude 8/12 because of its mood; I'll have a go at it after I check out:

Prelude in A Major Op.15, No.1 (gotta try a prelude while I've got them in the house).

I'm gonna like this guy. Look at these markings! Maestoso; affetuoso; fier, belliqueux; imperiuex; tempestoso; piacevole. The later Opp. will afford some tasty listening at the least. Looks like a little biographical reading would be fascinating too.

Many, many thanks! Finding a toehold is the hardest part. The rest is only work. \:D
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365327 - 10/06/02 09:20 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/02
Posts: 65
Loc: Los Angeles
I agree with Crashtest, in that Sonata #3 is beautiful. The fourth movement is quite famous. Scriabin is said to have once called this sonata the "Gothic Sonata", saying it described the ruins of a castle years after its destruction. It is true there is a feel of chivalry in the theme and melodies (ex: 2nd movement) or like at the end when the same series of chords is played succesively three times minor major minor, this gives a certain feeling of amplitude. The beginning of the fourth movement is like flying in circles looking down at the ruins of the castle \:\)

Also another thing I wanted to mention for Scriabin fans. There is an alternate version of the Op8#12 etude. It lasts twice as long and has a more optimistic harmony with much more major. You can get the sheetmusic for 10 dollars.
_________________________
"Music, even when picturing something that is ugly, must itself remain beautiful."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

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#365328 - 10/11/02 04:52 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
Working on both the C# minor and the F# minor etudes (couldn't choose; both interesting!), and enjoying them both, bigtime.

I'm especially appreciative of the "colour commentary" provided on Scriabin's works. I find these shared impressions very, very helpful.
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365329 - 10/11/02 08:33 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 646
Loc: Los Angeles
Whoa, the C# minor is a beautiful piece. It is also very difficult. I have not found any satisfying recording of it. The best being the sequenced one I have in midi file :rolleyes: .
Horowitz is OK but plays it with too much rubato for my taste. I have been looking for a recording of Scriabin himself, but it seems that there isn't any \:\(
Maybe you will be the ultimate performer of this piece once you've learned it. \:D Good luck on those pieces, the F# minor is also superb.

EDIT: I am talking about the Op42 C#minor
_________________________
"War does not determine who is right; only who is left."

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#365330 - 10/13/02 03:51 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
heheheheh... StanSteel, I found a midi of the F#- that, frankly, sounds like three cats in a sack!

So, just for the heck of it, I then decided not to listen to any recordings of either of these until I've worked on them long enough to form some firm personal conclusions. But I guess it's wide open if master performances are scarce. I can already see this composer wouldn't be for everyone.

I've decided to abstain for the moment for the abovementioned reason, but Stan, there is a recording of the C#- available at:

www.sgourosmp3.com/

It looks like the guy's own site, so I guess he wouldn't mind.
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365331 - 10/13/02 09:43 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/02
Posts: 65
Loc: Los Angeles
I was playing around with Sonata #5 today \:D
Man this piece is so hard it is not even funny. The rythm changes almost at every bar. The hands are all over the keyboard. Sustained notes... The Presto sections with 32th notes... There is those passages named Allegro Fantastico where the right hand has single short notes followed by a four finger chord repeatedly about a dozen times. That is hands down the most difficult passage I have ever seen. I wonder how it is even possible to play.
_________________________
"Music, even when picturing something that is ugly, must itself remain beautiful."
-- Ludwig van Beethoven

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#365332 - 10/13/02 10:42 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5229
Loc: McAllen, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by StanSteel2:
That is hands down the most difficult passage I have ever seen. I wonder how it is even possible to play.[/b]
I worked on this sonata for a while but never performed it. Believe it or not, that's not the hardest part - look a few pages later to where it says "vertiginoso con furia" and remember that we are dealing with quarter note = c. 132 here. From there to the end is pretty ridiculous, especially after playing everything that comes before it.

The trick is that in those chordal passages all of the notes don't have to sound - the arpeggiation thing on the top note is the most important thing texturally speaking. Scriabin was just going for this scintiliating, light effect and if all of the notes do sound, then somehow the effect is lost - same deal with the Prestissimo volando from the 4th sonata.

I've also done the 2nd sonata and a few etudes. I think that I enjoyed the 2nd sonata most because it put up the least fight!

The 4th sonata and some more of the op. 42 etudes are on my list. I honestly can't take too much of his music aside from the second sonata, some middle period compositions and Vers la flamme.
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#365333 - 10/14/02 04:08 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 646
Loc: Los Angeles
Yea that passage in chords is very fast! The chords are probably not easy ones to hit either.

It's true Sonata #2 is a very nice piece of music.
I used to not like the first movement, but after a while it grew on me. The second movement is neat with its sort of spiralling triplets.
_________________________
"War does not determine who is right; only who is left."

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#365334 - 10/14/02 04:21 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 646
Loc: Los Angeles
 Quote:
Originally posted by victorialis:
heheheheh... StanSteel, I found a midi of the F#- that, frankly, sounds like three cats in a sack!

So, just for the heck of it, I then decided not to listen to any recordings of either of these until I've worked on them long enough to form some firm personal conclusions. But I guess it's wide open if master performances are scarce. I can already see this composer wouldn't be for everyone.

I've decided to abstain for the moment for the abovementioned reason, but Stan, there is a recording of the C#- available at:

www.sgourosmp3.com/

It looks like the guy's own site, so I guess he wouldn't mind.[/b]
My bad. I thought you were talking about the technical nightmare C#minor etude in Op42. You are talking about the Op2#1
\:D Well they are both very beautiful in different respects.
_________________________
"War does not determine who is right; only who is left."

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#365335 - 10/15/02 12:21 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
That's okay, Stan, I probably contributed to the confusion somehow. I'm getting the idea (not just from you guys) that anything from Scriabin's later Opp. should only be undertaken wearing a parachute.

The C#- Etude (yes, Op2 No1) is lovely; it makes a nice change of atmosphere from the Chopin I've been studying. Although I see a couple of places where I may need to involve my nose to get all the required keys struck, I was nevertheless sold on it before the end of the sightreading. The F#- etude has fascinated me in a different way. The first measure was enough to hook me immediately; after spending a long time getting comfortable with the leaping and crossing 3-against-2 in the Rachm. 39/2 etude, here is Scriabin's F#- etude starting right out with 5-against-3, 6-against-3. For some reason I can already hear this etude more readily than usual, though I'm not conscious of it being familiar at all and haven't played any 5-against-3 before this.

Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher at Moscow Conservatory) said that neither Prokofiev nor Shostakovich could stand Scriabin. That tickles me, because I don't get Shostakovich at all but really enjoy Prokofiev. I understand that some of Prokofiev's work is hardly performed these days because many orchestras consider it simply unplayable. Brendan's and Stan's comments on Scriabin's 5th sonata reminded me of this. I am especially intrigued by Brendan's observation that not all the notes actually have to sound.

I would not deny that the piano can produce all of that discrete sound at tempo, nor would I deny that human body mechanics are capable of causing the instrument to produce all those notes -- there's no reason to underestimate ourselves.

But does a listener who is not reading along in the score as the piece is played, actually hear all those notes? They are distinct individual notes, there are intervals involved, there are accidentals -- a piano is calibrated to produces tones and semitones, nothing in between -- all those notes are there in the score for structural and artistic reasons, we trust -- can they have effect without enough time to resonate and register on the ear? Or am I underestimating the sensitivity of the human listening apparatus: do we hear more than we realize?

This has an oblique bearing upon my still-unsolved problem with the Rachm. 39/2 etude. The whole etude is in my fingers and most of it has shaped up well (and continues to be rewarding the more I work with it) but I do not understand what I am playing in the three or four measures just before the meno mosso.

When one bit sticks out like that, it's like having parts left over after building a bicycle, and you gotta wonder. What leads up to the meno mosso seems just too... abrupt. It feels illogical to me. I have no formal music theory, so I don't know how else to describe my unease with this part. Maybe it starts a few measures earlier, but by the time I get to measure 84 I know I've lost the plot. Then at measure 88 sanity reappears on the horizon.

Was this the composer's intention? Is this crazy Sergei's sly prophecy of postmodernism? (I'm kidding now -- kind of.)

The weird thing is: I have a recording of the Rachm. 39/2 etude, which I enjoy very much -- but having studied and practiced it myself for months now, I still don't see how the performer in the recording arrived at her interpretation. Now, I like what she did, or I wouldn't have taken Rachm. on again at this point. But I've studied this score for months -- it is not complicated, it's one long statement in 3 against 2, so the interest has to lie in the phrasing, in shifting emphasis -- and what she did leading up to the meno mosso, I simply do not see in the score.

To me, this is the flipside of "notes that don't have to sound": sound I thought I heard, that I can't find in the score. If something sounds good played like blazes, should this not be audible (to a less exciting extent, of course) at slower speed, where you can pay it better attention? Either the thing is there or it isn't. This doesn't happen in the Chopin I've studied.

Maybe that piece is just plain beyond me at present. I am unwilling to concede, though, unless I can understand why it is beyond me.

Meanwhile, on with Scriabin. To help me with the polyrhythm I sing the first measure thus:

"Take the weekend off
Edward Shevardnadze
Have some Beaujolais and tacos."

If anyone can come up with a more bizarre mnemonic for the first measure I shall adopt it with gusto.
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365336 - 10/15/02 11:01 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
kdurling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 37
Loc: Berkeley, California
Victorialis -

I'm a composer, and I don't find anything particularly jarring about the passage in 39/2 you mention, which is not to question that you do. It's great that you insist on being honest about your understanding of every bar. I could go into a theoretical explanation, but I don't think that would help you that much. How about this? Sometimes when you are turning an object in your hand, right before you come to new view of one of its sides, there is a sudden glint of light, gone as fast as it comes . . . or this, after spending time with a friend you don't see that often, you are saying goodbye, and have reconciled yourself to the fact that you are going to miss them not being in your life. But just as they turn the corner, the look back at you, and there is a sharp pang - a reaching out.

These are just my images - all I'm saying really is to play with engaging your imagination. What story - "Tableaux" - is the piece telling, and no matter how disjunct, every phrase has a place. The motivic derivation is really quite transparent - think a little more like an improvisor! Keep the faith.
_________________________
Ken

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#365337 - 10/15/02 11:04 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
kdurling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 37
Loc: Berkeley, California
Oh by the way, as to your original question, I strongly recommend the Op.11 Preludes. They were composed while Scriabin was still at the Conservatory, at about age 17 or so, and really demonstrate his integration and personalization of the language of Chopin. Fascinating pieces, I can't get enough of them.
_________________________
Ken

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#365338 - 10/15/02 12:37 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by kdurling:
Oh by the way, as to your original question, I strongly recommend the Op.11 Preludes. They were composed while Scriabin was still at the Conservatory, at about age 17 or so, and really demonstrate his integration and personalization of the language of Chopin. Fascinating pieces, I can't get enough of them.[/b]
kdurling, have you heard Pletnev's recording of the Op.11 preludes? I'm really anxious to get it. I have good recordings of the etudes, but don't have one of the complete preludes or the complete Op.11 set. So far Pletnev's looks like it may be the best...

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#365339 - 10/15/02 01:03 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
kdurling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 37
Loc: Berkeley, California
jeffylube -

No, I haven't, but I've heard two others. One by Ruth Laredo, whose approach is a bit too harsh for me, and another by a French or Swiss pianist I hadn't heard of before or since, and which, despite a thorough search just now, I can't seem to find and I can't remember his name. It is a marvelous recording. I'll see if I can't find the name and report back.
_________________________
Ken

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#365340 - 10/15/02 07:17 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
kdurling, many thanks for taking the time. This helps a lot. Your imagery for those few measures is quite apt, and admirably exact.
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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#365341 - 10/15/02 08:54 PM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
kdurling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 37
Loc: Berkeley, California
Victorialis -

I'm delighted it struck a chord! Thanks for letting me know.
_________________________
Ken

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#365342 - 10/16/02 12:42 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
StanSteel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 646
Loc: Los Angeles
 Quote:
Originally posted by victorialis:
That's okay, Stan, I probably contributed to the confusion somehow. I'm getting the idea (not just from you guys) that anything from Scriabin's later Opp. should only be undertaken wearing a parachute.

The C#- Etude (yes, Op2 No1) is lovely; it makes a nice change of atmosphere from the Chopin I've been studying. Although I see a couple of places where I may need to involve my nose to get all the required keys struck, I was nevertheless sold on it before the end of the sightreading. The F#- etude has fascinated me in a different way. The first measure was enough to hook me immediately; [...]

Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher at Moscow Conservatory) said that neither Prokofiev nor Shostakovich could stand Scriabin. That tickles me, because I don't get Shostakovich at all but really enjoy Prokofiev. I understand that some of Prokofiev's work is hardly performed these days because many orchestras consider it simply unplayable. Brendan's and Stan's comments on Scriabin's 5th sonata reminded me of this. I am especially intrigued by Brendan's observation that not all the notes actually have to sound.

I would not deny that the piano can produce all of that discrete sound at tempo, nor would I deny that human body mechanics are capable of causing the instrument to produce all those notes -- there's no reason to underestimate ourselves.

But does a listener who is not reading along in the score as the piece is played, actually hear all those notes? They are distinct individual notes, there are intervals involved, there are accidentals -- a piano is calibrated to produces tones and semitones, nothing in between -- all those notes are there in the score for structural and artistic reasons, we trust -- can they have effect without enough time to resonate and register on the ear? Or am I underestimating the sensitivity of the human listening apparatus: do we hear more than we realize?

This has an oblique bearing upon my still-unsolved problem with the Rachm. 39/2 etude. The whole etude is in my fingers and most of it has shaped up well (and continues to be rewarding the more I work with it) but I do not understand what I am playing in the three or four measures just before the meno mosso.

When one bit sticks out like that, it's like having parts left over after building a bicycle, and you gotta wonder. What leads up to the meno mosso seems just too... abrupt. It feels illogical to me. I have no formal music theory, so I don't know how else to describe my unease with this part. Maybe it starts a few measures earlier, but by the time I get to measure 84 I know I've lost the plot. Then at measure 88 sanity reappears on the horizon.

Was this the composer's intention? Is this crazy Sergei's sly prophecy of postmodernism? (I'm kidding now -- kind of.)

The weird thing is: I have a recording of the Rachm. 39/2 etude, which I enjoy very much -- but having studied and practiced it myself for months now, I still don't see how the performer in the recording arrived at her interpretation. Now, I like what she did, or I wouldn't have taken Rachm. on again at this point. But I've studied this score for months -- it is not complicated, it's one long statement in 3 against 2, so the interest has to lie in the phrasing, in shifting emphasis -- and what she did leading up to the meno mosso, I simply do not see in the score.

To me, this is the flipside of "notes that don't have to sound": sound I thought I heard, that I can't find in the score. If something sounds good played like blazes, should this not be audible (to a less exciting extent, of course) at slower speed, where you can pay it better attention? Either the thing is there or it isn't. This doesn't happen in the Chopin I've studied.

Maybe that piece is just plain beyond me at present. I am unwilling to concede, though, unless I can understand why it is beyond me.

Meanwhile, on with Scriabin. To help me with the polyrhythm I sing the first measure thus:

"Take the weekend off
Edward Shevardnadze
Have some Beaujolais and tacos."

If anyone can come up with a more bizarre mnemonic for the first measure I shall adopt it with gusto.[/b]
Here's one I just came up with, not sure if it works

"Please RE MEM Ber that complete freedom is al-LOWED"
"SO WHO CARES how long you spend on each of those NOTES"

Have you listened to the Op42 C#minor? It is beautiful. I saw the score first and didn't think it would produce such good music. I couldn't believe my ears the first time. Pianists fail to make all the notes sound though - in this case not like in the 5th sonata where they don't emphasize the notes, in this etude, I suspect them to purposedly leave out notes, just because it's too hard. If only they played it a little slower, maybe we'd hear everything.

Oh, also please let me know when you have listened to the sonatas. I'd be very interested in seeing how you react to them. Which are your favorites?
_________________________
"War does not determine who is right; only who is left."

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#365343 - 10/17/02 05:52 AM Re: Anybody play Scriabin?
victorialis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/01
Posts: 57
Loc: deep in the forest
Stan, what a mensch! I was just trying for the right number of syllables. You've loaded yours with excellent musical advice! \:D

I am now quite keen to hear some of the sonatas and Op11 preludes performed -- the more so because events this week have conspired to make me wait for it. I'll have better luck around the weekend, and make a point of tracking down a recording of the Op42 C#minor.

The score does look interesting. I wonder what is the structural reason for the choice of 12/8 time -- don't see that too often. "Affannato" means "worried." I got a kick out of that: although it was good to learn it doesn't mean something like "by the seat of the pants," "afflicted," or "like a fanatic" (those were my guesses and they might be fun alternatives), still -- How could a person take such guidance on board without adverse effect? "Make sure you play this anxiously."....! Moves along at a good clip, too.

Well, it's plain that's how the notes get left out. Sensitive interpretation. ;\)

Seriously, though, I see why you'd recommend it. I'm accumulating a great list here (which is terrific).
_________________________
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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