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2014年5月22日 星期四

Heaven in Tsimshatsui


Last night was special. So special that I could not resist writing again today. I heard one of my favourite composers, the innovative Alexander Scriabin's 24 Preludes, written within 8 years from 1888 (when he was just 16). They were done alternatively in major and minor keys from C major, to A minor, then G major, then E minor, D major, B minor ...ending in D Minor, following the ascending circle of fifths, modeled exactly on the two dozen preludes done by another poet of the piano, Frederic Chopin.  According to the programme notes, many of them reflect the influence of Scriabin's travels to Europe as a pianist from 1895 on. In order the piano preludes are:
    No. 1 in C major - Vivace
    No. 2 in A minor - Allegretto
    No. 3 in G major - Vivo
    No. 4 in E minor - Lento
    No. 5 in D major - Andante cantabile
    No. 6 in B minor - Allegro
    No. 7 in A major - Allegro assai
    No. 8 in F-sharp minor - Allegro agitato
    No. 9 in E major - Andantino
    No. 10 in C-sharp minor - Andante
    No. 11 in B major - Allegro assai
    No. 12 in G-sharp minor - Andante
    No. 13 in G-flat major - Lento
    No. 14 in E-flat minor - Presto
    No. 15 in D-flat major - Lento
    No. 16 in B-flat minor - Misterioso
    No. 17 in A-flat major - Allegretto
    No. 18 in F minor - Allegro agitato
    No. 19 in E-flat major - Affettuoso
    No. 20 in C minor - Appassionato
    No. 21 in B-flat major - Andante
    No. 22 in G minor - Lento
    No. 23 in F major - Vivo
    No. 24 in D minor - Presto

Scriabin (1872-1915) is a curious character, coming from an aristocratic Russian family, his uncles all having military careers, his father a diplomat in Turkey, his mother a concert pianist who died when he was still a child and his aunts all pianists.He learned piano from a young age and even in his teenage, he actually made many pianos himself as a hobby. Later, he became a military cadet in Moscow, then went on to study the piano and composition at the Moscow Conservatory but his ideas on composition were so very different from those his teacher Arensky that the latter refused to put his name on his graduation diploma. After he graduated, he alternated between being a touring concert pianist in Moscow and abroad, composing and writing philosophy and poetry. Scriabin became interested in synesthesia, associating different colors with musical tones and got interested in Madame Blavatsky's theosophy and would implement some of his ideas on the mysteries of the universe in some of his compositions. But his 24 Preludes belong to his early composition, which was published in Germany in 1897 along with his 12 Etudes. The influence of Chopin was more than obvious: light, lyrical, flowing and powerful by turns.

Scriabin's 24 Preludes formed the second part of the concert last night, played for us by another of my favorite pianists, Mikhail Pletnev, who apparently did not feel well (there was a notice outside the concert hall to the effect that the air-conditioning was deliberately turned down at the request of the pianist) as he entered and left the stage at an unusually slow pace as if he had to struggle with every pace. Perhaps that's why he did not appear to be in form for the first part of the concert, when he played for us two of Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 4 in A Minor D 537 and Sonata No. 13 in A D 664. But after the intermission, there was a dramatic change when he played first Bach's English Suite No. 3 in G Minor and then the heavenly Preludes by Scriabin. I love the way Pletnev played the preludes, gentle, flowing, thoughtful and never with excessive bravado. It was sheer joy to see his fingers flying and caressing the notes on the keyboard and producing a sound which really ought to heard only in heaven. Though obviously tired, he gave us an encore, one of Chopin's Nocturnes played with his unique blend of sensitive interpretation and his own kind of poesie.