Julian Haylock
BBC Music Magazine
March 2015

Following the turn of the last century, Scriabin's use of rhythm, harmony and melody turned increasingly supple as his music became progressively amorphous. In place of the tonal certainty of his earlier work, the later piano pieces—especially those entitled 'Poèmes' or with overtly programmatic associations—have an increasing tendency to leave the listener suspended. It is this period that is traced by the 34 super-compressed miniatures embraced by Garrick Ohlsson in this programme, from the Deux poèmes Op 32 of 1903 to the Deux dances Op 73 of 1914, by which time the delusional Scriabin was convinced that 'the external world is the result of my subjective spiritual activity … I am the apotheosis of creation; I am the aim of all aims; I am the end of all ends.'

Taking his lead from the more enigmatic of Chopin's 24 Preludes, Scriabin's microcosmic soundworlds, powered by chains of augmented and chromatically liquefied harmonies, require a transcendental technique and the ability to conjure up simultaneously myriad differentiated sounds and textures. Ohlsson possesses remarkable facility, as witness the multi-layered shimmering of Op 59 No 1 or miraculous control of dynamics in Op 73 No 2. He unleashes immense reserves of power in the Op 36 Poème satanique, yet has the required delicacy of touch and microcosmic pedal-control to float the Poème languid (Op 52 No 3) into the stratosphere. All I miss in these commanding readings is an intoxicating sense of delirium, of this extraordinary music possessing the power to toy with our perceptions.