Ruth Laredo – Alexander Scriabin, 24 Preludes
Ruth Laredo – Alexander Scriabin, 24 Preludes (1972)
The title of this album is actually Alexander Scriabin – 24 Preludes, Op. 11; 5 Preludes, Op. 74; Poem, Op. 32, No. 1. Classical music titles don't tend to roll off the tongue and it's understandable to go a bit glossy-eyed trying to parse them. The above embedded Spotify album also does not appear to be the version I own (photograph of vinyl below) but I think it's close enough, presumably a rerelease or remaster of the same recording. I had to share the original cover art because I think it's so much cooler than the one adorned with the Klimt piece above, a painter whose art seems to have been unfortunately reduced to usage as a period signifier, such as on this album cover. Klimt will always be the one on the front of the museum brochure, or framed inexplicably on the wall of a suburban basement, perhaps alongside a print of some Van Gogh sunflowers or a breathy sketch of the Eiffel Tower.
Scriabin's music is just inaccessible enough that it suffers no such fate of popular acclaim, but does reveal deep, complex beauty when given more than a passing listen. I arrived at his music via Rachmaninoff, a contemporary of the late 1800s Moscow music scene (they were taught by the same piano instructor), whom I'd for some reason read a biography about. I was drawn to what I will call the "effortful listenability" of Scriabin's piano compositions: they don't slide naturally into synchronicity with human melodic sensitivities like your Chopins and Rachmaninoffs, but they don't seek to offend them either. Within the bounds of this generalization falls a considerable range of composition, which I won't pretend I can discuss with authority, but will settle to remark on the evolution 24 Preludes captures from the composer's 11th opus to his 74th. The music got weirder, for sure, as he aged. We can only imagine what strange wonders might've been produced if he'd lived past 43.
I bought this vinyl on a whim (as most are) without any familiarity with the performer, Ruth Laredo. Scriabin's work having fallen into obscurity in the mid-20th Century, Laredo made a name for herself revitalizing and mastering his piano sonatas (of which there are ten) in the early 70s before recording the short-form works found here. His sonatas are colossal and sublime, and worth immersing in if these more digestible Preludes pique the listener's interest. His piano music has found purpose to me as a means of enabling deep focus, but also as a source of inspiration in my own artistic dabbling. Inspiration discovered, of course, with some effort.
And now the cover art, as promised: