Not Set in Stone: Mikhail Pletnev’s Rewrite of Scriabin’s Piano Concerto

Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor, Op. 20 (1897), was initially met with harsh criticisms. Then, in 1899, the critics’ and the public’s reaction suddenly changed from disparaging to admiring. Subsequently, Scriabin’s performances of the Concerto continued to consistently gather highest accolades throughout Russia, Western Europe, and the U.S.

The only credible explanation for such a remarkable metamorphosis is that Scriabin somehow modified (and improved) the piano part in his performances. No written corrections of the piano score exist, which is not at all surprising. Scriabin never revised his piano scores on paper. He did, however, habitually introduce numerous and often substantive changes into the published texts in his performances, as evidenced by both contemporary accounts and his piano-roll recordings.

Regrettably, Scriabin did not record the Concerto, and after his death in 1915, the Concerto gradually faded into virtual obscurity. Fortunately, the celebrated pianist, conductor, and composer Mikhail Pletnev has recently attempted to revive the Concerto’s former popularity. He revised—and, in many instances, rewrote—the piano part of the Concerto, mirroring Scriabin’s own documented approach to his scores.

Pletnev now performs his version of the Concerto across Europe, playing it with various orchestras. This article analyzes representative musical examples selected from an unpublished piano score, which the author received from Pletnev, and demonstrates numerous, truly "Scriabinesque" improvements that Pletnev introduced into the Concerto.


© 2017 Anatole Leikin

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.