Xiayin Wang (not to be confused with the better-known emerging Chinese pianist, Yuja Wang) has had the clever idea to record a CD of Scriabin piano pieces played in chronological order, beginning with two charming Chopinesque waltzes written when he was fourteen, and ending with Deux Danses, Op. 73, from the last year of his life. And much of the playing here is quite good. The little waltzes from his youth are played with charm and grace. The Polonaise in B Flat Minor, Op. 21, has the right amount of swing. But the big Fantaisie in B Minor, Op. 32, admittedly a loosely constructed work that can be hard to hold together, comes across as awkward, not thoroughly digested by Ms Wang. When we get to the Two Poems, Op. 32, one begins to hear more of the idiosyncratic and impressionistic Scriabin, but again there is some discrepancy in Wang's playing. The first Poem is simply gorgeous; the second -- the more dramatic of the two -- is played too bluntly, too brusquely. The same can be said for both the Poème tragique, Op. 34, and the Poème satanique, Op. 36. One gets the impression that Ms Wang is more comfortable in the dreamier, more soft-edged pieces as in her lovely playing of the Poème in D Flat Major, Op. 41. And so it goes.
The best known piece here -- and appropriately suggested as a theme of the entire album by Wang, whose booklet notes are helpfully informative -- is 'Vers la flamme' ('Toward the Flame'). This late piece has all of Scriabin's mysticism, his unique harmonies, his suggestions of darkness and brilliant points of light, and the beating of moths' wings. And Wang plays it beautifully, capturing its evanescent moods.
The CD ends with the Deux Danses, Op. 73, which came immediately after 'Vers la flamme', and they continue the exaggerated stillness and periods of manic activity of that work. Again, Wang is at her best.
To sum up: Wang's performances are somewhat uneven. There are patches of awkwardness and seeming incomprehension in the more overtly dramatic, flamboyant pieces. But she seems to relate best to the more static, harmonically elliptical works and does them well. She is given true-to-life piano sound by her engineer/editor Leszek Maria Woycik.