The Scriabin Etude in D-sharp minor from opus 8 has a very special meaning for me. My father, Morton Estrin, was the first person to record the entire Scirabin Etudes opus 8 in the late 1960’s for Connoisseur Society Records which won many accolades including record of the year. He later re-recorded the entire set on CD for Newport Classics. Both recordings remain a legacy of these monumental works.
After leaving my native New York to study with Ruth Slenczynska at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, she had me study the last etude in the opus 8, the D-sharp minor. At the time, it was in many ways the most difficult piece I had ever tackled. What was an incredible learning experience for me was that unlike other pieces I had learned, I could not use a purely linear approach in memorizing the score.
I had studied difficult pieces before, such as the Chopin G Ballade, and Liszt 6th Hungarian Rhapsody. In those works, there were key sections that I learned early on so that by the time I got to them, they were already coming along well. But for the most part, I learned them from the beginning to the end, mastering small sections at a time, connecting sections as I went. But with the Scriabin, things were different!
At first, I could connect two measure phrases to one another, but couldn’t play any four measure phrases! But I persevered. I kept learning even though I couldn’t play through the score. Eventually, I could play four measure phrases, but still couldn’t play a fluid performance. Finally, I could play this piece! But it took a new level of study in order to absorb this dense score.