GINA BACHAUER PIANO FOUNDATION, ARTHUR GREENE, PIANO, Jeanné Wagner Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Feb. 8
Alexander Scriabin was a mystic and visionary who believed that music had properties that extended beyond the merely aural and should embrace all the senses. And while one can appreciate his music for what it is, adding another layer does enhance the experience.
That’s certainly what Arthur Greene believes. The American pianist is one of today’s most ardent champions of Scriabin’s music, and he doesn’t shy away from challenging his audiences with programs devoted exclusively to the Russian composer’s music.
Since winning the Gina Bachauer competition in 1978 Greene has played in Salt Lake City on numerous occasions. On Friday he made a return visit with an all-Scriabin program, a follow up to his recital a few years ago where he played the complete sonatas accompanied by visuals.
Friday’s program was more varied. Greene played three of the sonatas (nos. 1, 3 and 6) along with the Fantasy in B minor, op. 28, and a set of six preludes, as well as the Étude in D sharp minor, op. 8, no. 12, unquestionably one of Scriabin’s most frequently played pieces.
The works extend through most of Scriabin’s creative life and show his development as a composer. Growing up immersed in the romanticism of German composers and the pianism of Chopin, Scriabin gradually developed his own unmistakable voice.
Greene gave a forceful account of this repertoire. He has the technical chops and the sensitive musicality to make this music come alive and capture its vivid colors. It was a dynamic performance that was enhanced by some striking artwork projected behind him on a large screen.
Greene, who has played this program elsewhere, chose over 100 contemporary symbolist paintings to illustrate the music. Some of these images are disturbing and some are erotic, but all are a compelling visual commentary on the music. Greene chose these works well and the succession of paintings flowed naturally with the music. It was a performance that will be impossible to forget.