By Lawrence Budmen

Alexander Scriabin believed that music and color were synonymous. In many of his scores, he actually notated colors along with the musical notes and markings. Any musician who performs Scriabin's works must be able to project the coloristic effects behind the notes. The remarkable Russian pianist Polina Osetinskaya devoted the second half of her recital on January 30, 2003 at Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach to the music of Scriabin.

The sheer technical demands of Scriabin's music require a musician with a flawless technique and the ability to evoke both thundering power and trance like pianissimo effects. Ms. Osetinskaya's performances were extraordinary. The dark, modernistic "Sonata No.3 in F Minor," Opus 23 ("Etats d'Ame") was a virtuoso tour de force. The repeated use of fourths in the first movements makes strenuous demands on the pianist. Ms. Osetinskaya dispatched these technical challenges with dare devil brilliance. The concluding Presto con fuoco was taken at a furious pace with note perfect control of the instrument. Here and in Scriabin's "Deux Poemes," Opus 32 and "Poeme Vers la Flamme," Opus 72, Ms. Osetinskaya produced a cascade of tonal colorations. She captured the mystical quality of the composer's musical discourse. The journey from darkness to light in Opus 72 was illuminated by a wide dynamic range and a variety of tonal gradations. The power pounding conclusion emitted the joy of blinding light. Scriabin's "Waltz in A flat Major," Opus 38 brought forth another side of this fascinating composer. Ms. Osetinskaya played it with lilting grace and charm. She produced a luminous stream of tone.

Earlier in the evening Ravel's "Alborado Del Gracioso" received an intense, feverish performance that recalled Martha Argerich's powerful rendition of this music. The dreamy middle section was taken slowly and delicately embellished with a kaleidoscope of tonal hues. Ms. Osetinskaya played this score as the lively Latin impression of Ravel's imagination. For her the music was more important than virtuoso self display. It was like hearing this familiar music for the first time. Her ability to play softly and with a creative sense manifested itself in Ravel's "Sonatine in F Minor." Here the music was gentle and shimmering. Ms. Osetinskaya seemed to produce the sounds of a musical rainbow - all misty and lovely. 

Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque" was all pianistic sparkle and elegance. For once "Clair de Lune" was played without exaggeration. Ms. Osetinskaya sustained the musical line and produced a warm and glowing tone. She brought vigor and exuberance to the Passpied. Her entire performance radiated the joy and wit of Debussy's music.

Ms. Osetinskaya opened the program with the American premiere of "Reminiscences of the Theatre" by the contemporary Russian composer Leonid Desiatnikov. This score is a real find. It might be described as Baroque meets Shostakovich. The charm of 17th and 18th century dances is treated to modernistic harmonies and extremes of dynamics. There is irony and sarcasm beneath the dance like movements. At times a bleak, even bitter mood intrudes upon the music's exterior elegance. Desiatnikov is best known for his film scores - most notably the 1996 "Prisoner of the Mountains." On the basis of this work, he is a composer of imagination and substance whose other scores deserve exposure in the West. This piano suite makes extreme demands on the artist's technique. Ms. Osetinskaya was stunning in the sheer power and emotional impact of her playing. Her performance of this eclectic score was dazzling. She produced a textbook display of great pianism.

The concert also featured Russian soprano Yana Eminova in arias by Puccini and Gounod. She revealed a sizeable lyric soprano voice. Her high notes were produced with ease. Ms. Eminova brought an idiomatic sense of Italian and French style to her arias. It would be interesting to hear this promising artist in a complete opera.

In a season filled with distinguished keyboard artists and performances, this concert was something special. Polina Osetinskaya is an exceptionally gifted artist. Her playing throughout the evening had an intensity and passion that were memorable. Here was the state of the pianistic art. 

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