PROGRAM NOTESSCRIABIN THE FINAL RECITAL
On April 2, 1915, Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin presented the final concert of his lifetime in St. Petersburg. At the time, he was at the height of his compositional and pianistic powers, just twelve days before his sudden and unexpected death. Faubion Bowers’ essential biography of Scriabin, in addition to providing insight into his life and artistry, details this program as well as several others that Scriabin performed during his lifetime. The reviews by the critics who attended this performance are also recorded by Bowers, painting a captivating picture of the deep musical experience that it was to attend a recital of Scriabin performing his own compositions. Bowers chronicles that Ellen von Tiedehöhl wrote for Etude magazine that “(Scriabin’s) eyes flashed fire and his face radiated happiness.” Scriabin himself stated that during the Third Sonata: “I completely forgot I was playing in a hall with people around me. This happens very rarely to me on the platform.”
I first encountered Scriabin’s final program while undertaking research for my Doctoral degree, and upon that discovery immediately decided to perform the program for the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death in 2015. I then decided to continue with the project, eventually recording the program for this album. There was something particularly evocative in imagining that scene, and the program itself was greatly compelling. Scriabin was masterful in designing programs, and this one is no exception. Although it was not intentional, it offers a nearly complete compendium of the composer’s compositional style. Included are early works, such as the Etude and Mazurka that belie Scriabin’s early idolatry of Chopin, a set of preludes and character pieces from his middle period, as well as selections from the final opuses he composed, Opp.73 and 74. Added to this range of works is the monumental Third Sonata, the culmination of his early period, and the masterful Fourth Sonata, which is the first of the sonatas where he begins in earnest to chart a new compositional direction.
The program is designed with a selection of short pieces in each “half,” concluding with a sonata. The small pieces are arranged effectively into short sets, creating a maximum amount of contrast, yet with an exceptional sense of emotional continuity. Of particular interest is Scriabin’s ordering of the Op.74 pieces, of which three of the five preludes are selected, and are played not in their printed order, and are interrupted by the two Op.73 Danses.
The second half of the program gives a vision of Scriabin’s mystical ethos with nebulous, fleeting emotions and figurations in an incredible variety of shades of color. In addition to the sensitivity required for effective performances of these and the opening set of preludes, there are several pieces in this program that make major virtuosic demands, such as the Valse Op.38, the final movements of each sonata and the Etude. Even the critics who maligned his compositions were practically unanimous in acknowledging the quality and power of Scriabin’s performances in his last years.
It is difficult to construct a program of a composer’s works, in particular a composer who composed so many miniatures, and therefore it is a rare luxury to be able to recreate a program that the composer himself designed. It is hoped that this recording will be a faithful representation of Scriabin’s final pianistic artistic vision. [Jeremy Thompson, October 2017]
Pianist Jeremy Thompson maintains an active performance schedule as a recitalist and concerto soloist with orchestras around the world. Maintaining a wide range of repertoire, Thompson specializes in highly virtuosic repertoire. In the United States, he has performed in the concerto setting to critical acclaim with the Charlottesville Symphony, North Carolina Symphony and Western Piedmont Symphony. In Canada, he has appeared with the Montréal Chamber Orchestra and Symphony New Brunswick and McGill Symphony Orchestra, and in Europe with the Saint Petersburg State Academic Orchestra, Saratov Philharmonic Orchestra and Georgian National Orchestra. An active recitalist, he performs extensively, including a Debut Atlantic tour of Eastern Canada and three trips to Russia. A dedicated teacher, Thompson focuses on acquiring a relaxed and fluid technique and the development of self-expression. He is also in high demand as a collaborative pianist. Born in Dipper Harbour, a small fishing village in New Brunswick, Canada, Thompson has a personal interest in championing the works of Canada’s major composers, including Brian Cherney, Jose Evangelista, and Jean Papineau-Couture. He recently released a recording of piano music by Quebec-based composers on the McGill label. Thompson studied at McGill University in Montreal, working with Marina Mdivani, a former student of Emil Gilels. He was honored with two of Canada’s most prestigious fellowships to pursue his doctoral studies, and in 2005 earned a Doctorate of Music in Piano Performance. He studied organ performance at McGill with Dr. John Grew and is also a concertizing organist and the Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This recording was made at Old Cabell Hall on the campus of the University of Virginia. A bookend to the University’s Rotunda, Cabell Hall was one of three buildings designed for the south end of the Lawn by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White, completed and dedicated in 1898. Since 1951, Cabell Hall has housed the McIntire Department of Music and the Music Library as well as the University’s principal lecture and concert hall. Its auditorium has a seating capacity of 851 and hosts more than 200 public performances and events each year. Hanging above the stage inside the auditorium is a copy of Raphael’s School of Athens that replaced the copy lost in the Rotunda fire of 1895. This copy was completed in 1900 by George W. Breck and presented to the University as a gift from an anonymous alumnus in 1902. To complement Breck’s School of Athens, a multi-panel mural, The Student’s Progress by artist Lincoln Perry, was installed in June 2000 in the hall’s lobby. Outside Old Cabell Hall stands a pediment sculpture by George J. Zolnay. Completed the same year as the building, it is an allegorical work based on biblical scripture, John 8:23: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Directly in front of the hall stands a bronze sculpture, created in 1907 by Moses J. Ezekiel, of blind Homer and his guide.
The piano selected for this recording is a 1927 Steinway, located in Old Cabell Hall. The instrument was chosen for its warm, mellow tone, as well as it being of a similar vintage as Scriabin’s original performance of this program. The piano was rebuilt most recently by Sujatri Reisinger at Klavierhaus in New York City in 2008.
PROGRAMALEXANDER SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prelude in D-flat major, Op.35, No.1
Prelude in B-flat major, Op.35, No.2
Prelude in B-flat minor, Op.37, No.1
Prelude in F-sharp major, Op.37, No.2
Prelude in B major, Op.37, No.3
Prelude in G minor, Op.37, No.4
Prelude in G major, Op.39, No.3
Mazurka in E major, Op.25, No.4
Etude in B-flat minor, Op.8, No.7
Valse in A-flat major, Op.38
PIANO SONATA NO.3 IN F-SHARP MINOR, OP.23
IV. Presto con fuoco
Nuances, Op.56, No.3
Danse languide, Op.51, No.4
Prelude, Op.74, No.4
Prelude, Op.74, No.1
Guirlandes, Op.73, No.1
Flammes sombres, Op.73, No.2
Prelude, Op.74, No.2
Etrangeté, Op.63, No.2
PIANO SONATA NO.4 IN F-SHARP MAJOR, OP.30