Liszt and Scriabin: Two Etudes for Piano Performed by Lola Astanova

It can be no secret to readers of this blog that Lola Astanova is one of my favorite contemporary pianists.  We have already seen her in performances of Rachmaninoff’s second sonata, three works by Chopin, and her own dazzling transcriptions of three popular songs, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing her again.  She combines a virtuoso technique with an extraordinary feeling and passion for the music, and brings a welcome individuality to everything she plays.

As a subscriber to Lola’s YouTube channel, I’m notified whenever she uploads a new video.  Most recently, she added an impromptu recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 10 in F-minor.  For me, the unplanned nature of this video only adds to its impact.  It is as if Lola has invited us into her dressing room without her makeup on, and allowed us to see even more deeply into the heart and soul of an artist.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that last October, I conducted an interview with Lola that covered subjects as diverse as her early musical training, her views on modern music, and the importance of the internet to musicians today.  The following exchange took place at the end of that interview.

DERRICK:  If I were to select a few pieces that I would most like to hear you play, I would choose Scriabin’s Etude Op. 42, No. 5, Prokofiev’s 6th and 8th sonatas, and the sonata by Samuel Barber.  Is there any hope for me?

LOLA:  Yes, let’s start with Scriabin’s Etude.  I haven’t played it in a long time so thanks for reminding me.

Imagine how excited I was last February to discover that Lola had indeed recorded the etude I mentioned.  What an inspired, glorious piece of music, full of a brooding, impassioned yearning sweetened with flights of unbounded joy.  It has been a favorite of mine for over 40 years, ever since I became familiar with Victor Merzhanov’s recording of it.

And how beautifully Lola plays it, how it sings under her fingers!  How fortunate we are that she shares her gift so unsparingly.  Now that she has recorded the Scriabin, do I dare hope that she will one day record the sonatas by Prokofiev and Barber?

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