Alexander Scriabin: Piano Concerto
Composed when he was just 24 years old, Alexander Scriabin’s Piano Concerto was the first of his works to use an orchestra, as well as being the only concerto that he wrote. Although a majority of the concerto was composed in 1896, it wasn’t until 1896 that the work was published due to Scribarin’s slow progress on the orchestration. Scriabin was the esteemed soloist at its premiere in Odessa in 1897, however critics had mixed responses to the concerto. As the work was played across Europe, more people began to enjoy Scriabin’s concerto.
Movement I – Allegro
The intimate opening to the concerto is started by the horns and strings, who lay the foundations before the rhapsodic piano enters. Throughout this movement, and perhaps even the concerto, the impassioned style of the piano is introverted, with the soloist and orchestra working as a team to create divine climaxes and swells of music. Set into a classical sonata form structure, the opening movement is based on three main themes which are each explored by the soloist. All differing in style, the playful scherzando is the perfect antidote to the rhapsodic piú mosso.
The passionate central climax drips with rhapsodic decoration as the once shy piano bursts with character and dynamic. As the soloist and orchestra interplay, Scriabin writes some really sweet melody lines for the woodwind, which creates a number of voices in the mix. As the music heads into the coda, the piano begins to work with the orchestra to create intensity before the final tutti chords are played.
Movement II – Andante
Now moved into the key of F# major, the variation-style central movement is pinned on the opening muted strings chorale. The soft timbre and the juicy harmonies create a delicate platform for the soloist. Five contrasting variations are borne from this quiet opening, with the piano starting with a sparkling first variation. There are dramatic changes in character for each variation, which adds excitement to the music. Powerful tutti sections lay between intensely soloistic sections which sees the piano play in a range of different styles. This movement ends quietly, with the piano playing the main melody one last time.
Movement III – Allegro moderato
The longest movement of the three, the finale to Scriabin’s Piano Concerto is full of development and exploration. Taking the form of a sonata-rondo, the main two themes are taken and experimented with throughout each section. The exciting twists and turns to the music reflects the characteristics of the second movement, where quick and dramatic changes really divert the course of the music. Intricate call and response figures dominate the central section, with the soloist and orchestra thoroughly going through the themes. A glorious climax in this central section brings back the rhapsodic piano from the opening movement.
The long coda for this movement sees previous themes played through again, although this time they are fully-realised and orchestrated. The intensity begins to rise during the last minute of the concerto, as the decorative woodwind adds to the splendour of the piano. As the brass join the party, the brass and percussion lead into a two-chord passage that brings the orchestra and soloist together for the last time.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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