Vladimir Horowitz (1903 – 1989) was one of my first heroes of the piano. My first Horowitz record – perhaps even my first classical music purchase – was his astonishing “Homage to Liszt”, which features a hair-raising performance of the 6th Hungarian Rhapsody. That album was followed by many others, including the double-LP “The Horowitz Collection”, which includes Scriabin’s Sonata No. 9, and “The Sound of Horowitz”, which introduced me to today’s selection, the Etude Op. 8 No. 12.
There is an ecstatic quality to much of Scriabin’s music that is extraordinarily compelling. It is if Scriabin is struggling to express some violent ecstasy within, and while he succeeds to an extraordinary extent, one has the feeling that there is still more to be expressed, if only Scriabin could reach it.
Of all the great composers whose lives ended too early, surely none died more absurdly or needlessly than Scriabin, who died at age 43 from blood-poisoning caused by a boil on his lip.