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 Post subject: Help in choosing Scriabin pieces
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:47 pm 
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Having never played any Scriabin pieces, nor knowing much about his output (except for that one popular etude), I am in need of some guidance as to where a good place would be for me to start. Aryobrand has graciously offered to help and of course all you other members are welcome to add any insights you may have, as well.

Here is a general idea of what I would desire:

I’d like try out pieces from each of Scriabin’s three periods – that sounds very interesting to me – to hear how he changed. I like shorter pieces, like fewer than five pages long, and I prefer any tempi slower than vivace. Difficulty level – anything under really-hard-crazy advanced. Tone – “romantic ... harsh ... evil and twisted ... lascivious ... passionate ... etc” I like all of those things.

Hope that helps to narrow it down.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:38 pm 
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How about one of his nocturnes:

http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/f ... turnes.pdf


:?:

And a video of the nocturnes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EqVxav0 ... PL&index=6

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Thank, J. That's a pretty piece. I'll keep it in mind.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:32 pm 
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

First of all, Welcome to the Dark Side. :twisted: MWAHAHAHAHAHA Are you sure you wish to proceed? ... :?: ... if so, then let's get started. 8)

That out of the way, you mention that you would like shorter pieces. How short? Some of Scriabin's pieces are one page long. Like:

Prelude, Op.16, No. 4 or No.5 (technically first period, starting the transition to second)
(I've noticed there is a version of No.4 on the site, but I personally feel that he's way too free with the tempo and looses some of the rhythmic emphasis...and some of the exactness of the figures... but ah, well ...also, see my note later on approaching Scriabin)
...
but wait, before we start looking through for performance pieces...

Actually, I just realized that I would need to first ask more questions, so in the mean time check out Scriabin's Preludes Op.16 and 17. Anything from Op.11 is well loved, but I'd rather try to find something that's not played as much, yet is still rather beautiful, moving, etc.

While you're looking at the previous two Opus (Opi?), I need to know how comfortable are you with polyrhythms? Scriabin loved to use 'unusual' time signatures and rhythmic figures and some of them can get quite complex. Look at Opus 16, No.3 and tell me how comfortable you would be with the right hand near the end - (don't play the 5's as 6's! or rubato them over! use a metronome for this assessment). (Again there is a recording of this but it's too free with the tempo and there's not enough attention paid to the phrasing, dynamics, esp where r.h. not same as l.h., etc - I don't want to sound like I'm picking on anyone and haven't really seen if the performer would appreciate my sometimes vitriolic critique so I'll leave it at that.) This is Scriabin at some of his most Chopinesque, especially the lead from measures 24 through 27. For Scriabin this isn't much since the left hand is in straight four throughout. I would like to see you try something more challenging, but if someone is not used to playing Scriabin sometimes the modulations of tonality are enough of a challenge. Give me some more feedback about this particular piece (i.e. Op.16, No.3) whether you feel comfortable enough to try something more challenging - and I'm confident that you would be. :)

Also give me some feedback regarding 3 Morceaux, Op.52 especially No 1, Poeme. This has a few tricky polyrhythmic figures but not too many and is obviously from his final period. I'm suggesting some of these to begin with not necessarily as pieces to choose for a final recording but rather to let me know which direction you'd like to explore first.

That should give you a few to go through for now. I'd be impressed if you started one of his Piano Sonatas, but they're usually much longer and more complex; and Scriabin wrote a LOT of his Preludes and Etudes based on figures that he more fully develops in the Piano Sonatas. At least look over the rhythms of Piano Sonata, No. 7, Op.64 especially measures 29-59, and again at measure 169 and onward (Tempo I - foudroyant [babelfish says "striking down"]). Although I'm confident you could master this piece, it might be a bit much to start with, but look it over from a speed that's comfortable with a focus upon the rhythmic figures (maybe a metronome :wink:). Remember with Scriabin, I feel it's MOST important to start out learning the piece in STRICT tempo, then later after you've 'gotten' the rhythm...

(sometimes it takes me three or four attempts to even understand what Scriabin was trying to say - both rhythmically AND melodically, but when you do 'get it', it will be unmistakable. Sometimes I've found myself leaping up from the piano bench exclaiming "Yes!!! Yes!!! How &j8(*4ing beautiful!!! How &j8(*4ing perfect!!!". So remember that if the first time you play through it, if it sounds atonal, then look at it again. In my experience with Scriabin's music, I have NEVER found ANYTHING of Scriabin's that is atonal. He just experimented on the edges of known tonality even incorporating Eastern/Middle Eastern style scales (such as in Prelude Op.67,No.1), and sometimes he likes to change keys A LOT (such as Piano Sonata No.3, Op. 23 especially IV measures 174-182ish), etc. Also please note, that once you 'get it', you can never go back!!! Are you sure you wish to proceed? :?: :twisted: MWAHAHAHAHA If you are sure then let's proceed, but know that you will never look at music quite the same way ever again.)

...later after you've 'gotten' the rhythm, then and only then should you add rubato and feeling, etc.

I feel almost an obligation to ask you to consider yet a third time and final time if you're ready to cross over. :?: For if you choose to proceed, you might find yourself listening to and playing music so exalted, so passionate, so transcendant, that the uninitiated will merely look at you strangely, and exclaim "WHAT is THAT?". You will become a partaker of the deeper Mysterium of Scriabin. :twisted: and if so, then WELCOME WELCOME WELCOME :lol: I hope I didn't scare you too much. :wink: :lol:

I'll be eagerly awaiting your views/choices for further exploration...

Love is the law, love under will.
Aryobrand

P.S. Almost all of Scriabin's Piano Music is published in three volumes from Dover Books:
1 The Complete Preludes and Etudes for Pianoforte Solo
2 Mazurkas, Poemes, Impromptus and other Works for Piano
3 Complete Piano Sonatas
Since these are Dover books, you can usually get them for about US$20/each. Amazon may have better deals, if you're serious about playing Scriabin these are fairly good starter editions that usually tell you 'if' and 'where' the editor has 'corrected' Scriabin's MSs. I usually restore my versions to what was contained in Scriabin's manuscripts, since editors are usually wrong and didn't fully understand what Scriabin was saying. E.G. Op.13, No.1 measures 34 and 38 should CLEARLY be a natural sign, NOT the flat, etc, etc. (Dover Edition)


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 11:11 pm 
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING APPROACHING SCRIABIN'S MUSIC:

Many instructors suggest first listening to a piece performed by someone else before beginning to learn it for yourself. I disagree completely with this approach, especially with Scriabin's music. With Scriabin, since it's so easy to misinterpret his music, many performers actually 'correct' Scriabin's 'mistakes' (I've heard performers do this with some music by Bach as well :roll: especially with minor seconds and major sevenths). Scriabin more so than any other composer I've encountered was very exacting in regard to rhythm and tonality. In places where other composers intend a loose figure based somewhere around a dotted eighth to sixteenth, Scriabin will not hesitate to write the figure in 5, 7, 11, 13, etc. So if Scriabin has written a dotted eighth to sixteenth, he means dotted eighth to sixteenth. If he meant in five, e.g. first note for 4 then last note of one, he would write it that way. If I come across this figure above with, say, the left hand in triplets, I ALWAYS interpret this to mean four-against-three, or five-against-three. With some other composers, their intention was to change the dotted-eighth-to-sixteenths into a jazzy triplet figure. Scriabin will always write EXACTLY what he meant - even if you have to count out 17-against-5!!! For this reason and many others, it is of the utmost importance to learn the piece FIRST from the manuscript notes, and then, AFTER you've understood Scriabin's intention, by all means listen to other performances, etc. Otherwise you run the risk of repeating other people's mistakes and misinterpretations which, in my never humble opinion (IMNHO), are much more numerous than accurate interpretations (cf. this example). This happens even by some of the best pianists, such as Vladimir Ashkenazy. It is also for this reason that I would INSIST on starting out with a metronome (unless you can fairly well keep the beat steady without one), THEN only AFTER you've learned how the exacting rhythm was written by Scriabin, then begin to add in your own ritardandos, accellerandos, rubatos, etc, but TASTEFULLY.

Love is the law, love under will.
Aryobrand


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 3:59 am 
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You didn't scare me at all! I can't tell you how I crave something different to play these days. In fact, I got so excited reading what you said here that I right away printed off Op. 16 - nos. 3, 4 and 6, Op. 17 - nos. 4 and 6, Op. 52 - no. 1 "Poeme" and op. 67, no. 1.

I read through all of them and I have to say that I really Love them. All of them! Just what the doctor ordered, you could say. They are each so beautiful, I can't believe I never played any of these before! Thank you so much, Michael!!

I could sight read through these fairly well and will definitely spend time to get them learned all the way. My two concerns so far are: Op. 52, no. 1 - the rhythm is a little tricky but how interesting it is - all those time changes! I think I can work it out after some time. haha

The other concern is on op. 67, no. 1. First of all, wow - what an interesting sound. I've come close to playing music like this, but not quite like this. The problem I have, though, is the very first chord - I can't reach it. Do you think it is okay to sort of jump up to the E in the left hand? Also at bars 15 and 19 - impossible for me to reach - actually impossible for anyone to reach. I'm not sure which parts of the chord on each hand come down together. Is that just something that one can do according to what one likes, or is there a rule for this?

Anyway, thank you again, Michael. I love this music and funny, but I don't feel like I'm in/on the dark side at all! This more like brightened my day! :D

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 6:05 am 
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[ot] Ms. Mazurka Queen, where do you live in relation to Golf Rd. ?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:24 am 
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Not so fast, Monica! :lol: Those pieces that I suggested were just to gauge certain requirements/desires/limitations/reservations that you might have. Some of the pieces that I have in mind you might like much better than those!!! :D

Definitely go ahead and play through those, then re-read my post above and go through them again with the specific questions in mind. We can probably find other songs among Scriabin's compositions that are a bit more challenging/interesting/desirable.

In particular, let me know how easily you can pick up the Op. 16, No.3 and Op. 52 rhythms as well as the Piano Sonata No.7. Do you have trouble with playing in five? With all the Chopin and Granados I wouldn't think you would, but some people do, so let me know. Also, how comfortable are you with figures without easy common denominators, e.g. three-against-five, five-against-six, etc. Because if you're fairly comfortable with those there are other pieces that utilize as such. I really didn't want to scare you off with one of those as the first suggested piece. If I had first suggested Poeme Tragique, Op.34 which was one that I half had in mind (middle period), you might have said "forget it". Maybe that one might actually be easy for you as well.

You might also prefer to record other ones that haven't yet been recorded. At least three of those are already on this site. The Dover editions are a steal. You would spend more than $40.00 in ink alone just to print half of what's included. I'd recommend either the Preludes volume or the Mazurkas one - both if it's within budget.

The Complete Preludes

The Mazurkas, Impromptus, etc

Complete Piano Sonatas

I'll have to go downstairs to get my scores to answer the other questions you asked, but might be able to get back to you on those questions later tonight (at any rate, by tommorrow).

The other reason I don't want you to go too fast into it is, as you know, some people have sustained injuries going too far too fast with Scriabin. That usually results from them seeing a huge stretch chord and just forcing themselves to hit it from a running passage. Take it slow, then work up into it. Always remain extra vigilant with playing too much, too long, too hard. Scriabin can be consuming!!! :wink:

Love is the law, love under will.
Aryobrand

P.S. On the other hand, if you're already almost flying solo towards choosing, I would never stand in your way. By all means, explore and let me know if you have questions. Or I can help you further to find just the right pieces for your Scriabin debut, as you will. Just let me know. :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:33 pm 
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Michael, you wouldn't know this about me, but I am not a very patient person and so many times I can't wait to order books and instead just print off the music from the net. However, I do realize that the scores I am accessing may not be the ones from which you think I should be reading. This has happened to me a few times with Chopin and very recently with some Granados music. In fact, I am currently re-learning a couple Granados pieces because I purchased the new Urtext editions after learning from a Granados expert that I really should play out of these books.

So anyway, I have no problems with the rhythm in 16-3, or with playing in 5, or playing 5 against 6 etc. The rhythm and notes in 52-1 seem harder, but I still think I can do it. The last page of this piece is pretty 'black' though, so it may be the maximum level of difficulty for me. I really won't know until I get into it more.

I'm looking at that Op. 34 "Tragique" right now. It's looks a little scary, but if you think it's a great piece, I will print it out and try it.

But in the meantime, I can barely stand the fact knowing that you may have in mind other pieces that I will like even better than the ones we've talked about so far! You must tell me!!! (please) :)

************

J - I'm about 20 miles away. Why? Are coming here?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 2:23 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
J - I'm about 20 miles away. Why? Are coming here?



If you want me to. The real reason why I asked is because I had to drive I-94 to O'Hare to drop my father off because he is going to Poland for a month. And wow is all I can say. Non-stop construction and heavy traffic. I cannot understand how you are able to have a brightened day dealing with Illinois roads.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:11 pm 
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I'd definitly recommend all Op. 11 preludes and some of Op. 16. Most aren't that difficult, but I feel they offer a good overview of Scriabin's harmonic language, while also helping growing a taste for some of his later pieces.
Maybe it's just me, but I feel you definitly have to understand his pieces to play them properly ; I've been delaying learning his "easiest" sonatas for ages because I feel I don't understand them yet. To give an example of the contrary, some Liszt or Rachmaninov is much more straighforward to play. Scriabin I find easy to get lost, so I make sure to do a complete analysis before I learn anything, especially since there are so many melodic notes hidden in chords and what seems to be only harmonies.

I'm don't appreciate much his later works, except the sonatas and a few other things ; the poems are mostly wasted on me for now. I think it is an acquired taste.
Some harder works I would recommend and I will want to try myself (after I'm finished my Rachmaninov revival project !), are the Fantasie (Op. 28 ? in D) and the first 3 sonatas which feel definitly understandable (though after reading through them some passages and runs seem impossible). I wouldn't recommend the harder etudes unless you really love them. Some are really hard to play satisfactorily, and that can lead to incredible frustration. Exceptions could be the Op. 2 famous one and some of the first 42 ; I've been trying those and they are definitly not all as hard as the n°5 (though this one is definitly the most beautiful to me, maybe because it is not the most modern of the batch).

Like Arybrand says, you definitly want to work with a metronome. From what little music I've experienced, Scriabin definitly has the most complex and difficult rhythms ; his accents are also frequently displaced. There also are many many polyrhythm (I'd wager to say his music is a whole study in them). Other than that I've sometimes been hard pressed by some contrepoint, and for his easier piece tone control ; for some pieces you really need a colorful and rich tone, dry playing definitly doesn't fit.

Finally, I'd like to say that while at first I thought you could "jump right in" Scriabin's music, it is definitly not the case. That surely doesn't apply to you, from what works I've heard you perform, but for me I definitly started too early. It is easy to completly "misplay" one of his piece, and looking back I regret learning some of his hard ones before having played more of other composers. Not only is it often technically demanding (in a way different than in Liszt I find : it is hard to express what you want because of the constant demand on all your musical skills), it is ripe with content, and for a beginner like me it is easy to get swamped and drown. Since I was talking about Rachmaninov earlier, I find his music is so much easier on the brain and delightful to play ; Scriabin, there are so many choices to make when playing it can be tough to manage. I've yet to play well and enjoy one of his harder pieces I think. For now, I personnaly am taking a step back ; I'll enjoy listening to it, learn some more Bach, Chopin, Rach and Prokoviev, then I'll be back for the harder pieces.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:58 am 
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Thanks, Teddy. I appreciate your thoughts. I have not had time to play through the pieces today, but now you got me thinking that maybe my first impression that they are not that hard is incorrect. I will definitely take care when I get back to them and look for all the fine details.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:17 pm 
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

First of all, pianolady, one thousand apologies and an apology for taking sooooooo long to get back to you on these - I think one of my professors is a sadist, I should be (a little) less busy after Thursday.... :arrow: I see that you have begun to delve deeper into the Mysterium ... Excellent! 8)

You had a question about playing the chords on Op.67, No.1, but that piece was only an example and not a suggestion ... Nevertheless with the chords there are at least three different approaches you can make:

1. I have this new patented mechanical device which I call the "Schumann Spanner" ... :shock:

2. The second approach requires a working middle pedal and is similar to approach #3. If you play the C and the F# with the left hand while playing the E and the Bb with the right hand and catch these four notes with the middle pedal while jumping up to the Ab with the right hand (as with a grace note).

3. The third approach is a little more tricky which is similar to #2 except if you switch the hands (right hand crossing over the left hand) for the first chord and using the sustain pedal. This will give you a little bit more 'flow' to hit the Ab with the right hand. This method can also be done without crossing the hands if that's more comfortable.

Personally I use solution #1! ... :shock: ... ((or maybe not) since the left hand chord isn't really a problem for me, after all it's only a tenth.) :lol:

Remember this is Andante so you do have a bit more time to hit the chord plus the upper melody. If you use the pedal just try not to let the chords/notes run together too much. This is especially crucial with the Poeme Tragique since a lot of the melody is buried within the chords. The bridge (the part with all those Pink Floyd-Dark Side of the Moon chords) can take much more pedal.

I'd still like to know what is your assessment so far. Have you explored much on your own, and have already decided? Or do you want something a little bit more _____________ (fill in the blank). I don't really remember if we've found something from each of his periods yet. Scriabin only has about 74 opuses, and some 21 other unnumbered pieces (including his few orchestral works - BTW, You must listen to a recording of his Opus 20, Piano Concerto as well as his symphonies Op. 26, 29, 43 (Le Divin Poeme), 54 (Le Poeme de l'extase), 60 (Prometheus, Le Poeme de feu)). Two of my personal all-time favourites are Opus 20 (perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, and Prometheus.

I still haven't heard your opinion of his Piano Sonata No. 7, Op.64 (White Mass). You might also look through Piano Sonata No.6, Op. 62. Both of these are among my personal favourites although Scriabin is said to have been terrified of No. 6 ("nightmarish...fuliginous...murky...dark and hidden...unclean...mischievous" are some of the descriptions attributed to it by him.) It's for these emotions that I love it so. :twisted: :wink:

I feel very confident that you could handle one of the later Piano Sonatas for an exploration of his later period, so let me know what you think and I'll try to find some of his preludes/etudes where he extracts and develops individual themes from them as a warm-up. As you may already know, more than a few of his preludes and etudes are just taking themes from his larger works and exploring them in detail (Preludes in the truest sense of the word).

Love is the law, love under will.
Aryobrand

P.S. Have you gotten his three Dover editions yet? As I completely agree with Teddy about learning Op.11, I just figured that you would want to record something that wasn't as widely performed. Every pianist should learn (at least) Scriabin's Op.8, Op.11, Op.42.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 2:32 pm 
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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Teddy, have you previously played through Scriabin's Opus 8 Etudes? It's one of the three that I would recommend for developing the Scriabin 'sense'. Plus some of these etudes can really help a pianist get used to certain polyrhythms that you will meet in Scriabin's other works. Op.8, No.2 has some nice rhythms that when mastered can take you much farther even with other composer's works as well - just try to keep the 5-6-4-4 divisions steady (over the l.h. triplets) for the most benefit (don't alter the groups of 5's to six-based timing either). Metronomes are a Scriabinites best friend. :D

Also Op.8, No.11 is a good beginner's piece that introduces alternate rhythms/timing. I have a Russian edition of this that lists most of the 5's as 5's and not (2-3: 2 sixteenths-sixteenth triplet) as some editions do. I think the five-against two sounds the best throughout as written in the Russian edition, others may differ in opinion (as did Dover).

Love is the law, love under will.
Aryobrand


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 4:03 pm 
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aryobrand wrote:
1. I have this new patented mechanical device which I call the "Schumann Spanner" ... :shock:


No, thanks. I heard that didn’t work out so well for him. :lol:

aryobrand wrote:
2. The second approach requires a working middle pedal and is similar to approach #3.

Interesting…I didn’t think about using the middle pedal.

aryobrand wrote:
. The third approach is a little more tricky which is similar to #2 except if you switch the hands (right hand crossing over the left hand) for the first chord and using the sustain pedal.

Again, interesting…will experiment with both these ways.

aryobrand wrote:
Personally I use solution #1! ... ... ((or maybe not) since the left hand chord isn't really a problem for me, after all it's only a tenth.)

Pffff – I’m a girl. :wink:

aryobrand wrote:
I'd still like to know what is your assessment so far. Have you explored much on your own, and have already decided?


Well, I just recorded a few of the short preludes in op. 16 an 17. They are in the audition room if you’d like to hear them. Actually, I would like you to – I’d be very interested in your opinion on my playing them.

aryobrand wrote:
Or do you want something a little bit more _____________ (fill in the blank).

I’m definitely interest is something a bit more ______but I’m afraid it may be too hard. Guess I won’t know until I look at it. Also this is kind of creeping me out, but that's ok.

aryobrand wrote:
I don't really remember if we've found something from each of his periods yet. Scriabin only has about 74 opuses, and some 21 other unnumbered pieces (including his few orchestral works - BTW, You must listen to a recording of his Opus 20, Piano Concerto as well as his symphonies Op. 26, 29, 43 (Le Divin Poeme), 54 (Le Poeme de l'extase), 60 (Prometheus, Le Poeme de feu)). Two of my personal all-time favourites are Opus 20 (perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, and Prometheus.


Haha – everyone says they know the most piece ever written. I will give your choice a shot and put it on my ipod and take it with me on my run in a few minutes.

aryobrand wrote:
I still haven't heard your opinion of his Piano Sonata No. 7, Op.64 (White Mass). You might also look through Piano Sonata No.6, Op. 62. Both of these are among my personal favourites although Scriabin is said to have been terrified of No. 6 ("nightmarish...fuliginous...murky...dark and hidden...unclean...mischievous" are some of the descriptions attributed to it by him.) It's for these emotions that I love it so.


Ok, I’ll put these on my ipod too. Strange that he was afraid of his own music. Then again, Chopin saw ghosts as he was writing his preludes.

aryobrand wrote:
I feel very confident that you could handle one of the later Piano Sonatas for an exploration of his later period, so let me know what you think and I'll try to find some of his preludes/etudes where he extracts and develops individual themes from them as a warm-up. As you may already know, more than a few of his preludes and etudes are just taking themes from his larger works and exploring them in detail (Preludes in the truest sense of the word).


Seems like I have quite a lot of homework to do, now. Thank you very much for all this information, Michael. :D

aryobrand wrote:
P.S. Have you gotten his three Dover editions yet? As I completely agree with Teddy about learning Op.11, I just figured that you would want to record something that wasn't as widely performed. Every pianist should learn (at least) Scriabin's Op.8, Op.11, Op.42.

No, I'm using sheets I get off of ISMLP.

I guess I will look at Op. 11, but I didn't go there first because we have quite a lot from that set on the site already.

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