Alice Burla: An Insatiable Appetite for Scriabin
Alice Burla is a remarkable artist. Though we both studied there, our paths never crossed at Juilliard, but they did in a chance encounter at the Padewereski Piano Academy in Poland a few years ago. She has a host of accomplishments, not the least of which was being among the youngest students accepted to Juilliard (age 6), performing at Carnegie Hall in the PBS "From the Top" series at the age of 11, by the age of 19, having performed 15 piano concertos with orchestras worldwide, and appearing in 2010 as a piano prodigy in the 20th Century Fox film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," directed by Oliver Stone. Now living in Spain studying with Dmitri Bashkirov, Ms. Burla is ensconced in the works of Alexander Scriabin (1872 - 1915) at present and we caught up recently, discussing at length her passion for this remarkable composer. I have always been enamoured of her playing and its tastefulness, so with her permission I have included portions of it here as well as her recent performances of Scriabin piano works. For further information, visit her website at www.aliceburla.com.
1. What does Scriabin evoke for you in your senses?
Scriabin is more than just music to me. It's smells, tastes, and it's colours; it combines all the senses. Honestly, I've never opened a score of Scriabin that I didn't think, "Wow, that's incredible." I'm fascinated by this man.
2. Can you give a description of your experience when performing this work for an audience? What do you hope they will feel or sense about the music? Where do you go in your mind when you play?
When I perform Scriabin, the music takes over completely. I try to give the audience every flavor and taste that the music is sharing and make them feel, in a sense, manipulated by the emotion that it evokes.
3. Describe a specific moment when you realized this music was truly calling to you or when the connection was extremely strong.
When I heard my Professor Dmitri Bashkirov play Scriabin. The nostalgia in the sound, the beauty, delicacy, intricacy... simply sublime. My heart was taken forever.
4. What works of Scriabin are closest to your heart? 5. What works of Scriabin are closest to your mind?
It is quite impossible to separate the two!
7. Which performers of Scriabin are the most interesting or provocative for you?
Some of my favorite recordings:
Feinberg/Mazurkas Op.3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN99G6YlS7o
Gilels plays Sonata No.3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hmgVntw2nI
Stanislav Neuhaus/Morceaux and Poemes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCujMrIle7c
9. What pieces of Scriabin are you working on or performing now?
I recently have been performing the Sonata No.3 Op.23, a selection of Preludes Op.11, Mazurkas (Op.40 No.2 and Op.25 No.4), and Etudes Op.8, as well as the Deux Morceaux Op.57.
10. How did hearing Dmitry Bashkirov play Scriabin change your life?
It all started when I heard his recording of the Waltz in A flat Major Op.38. It brings tears to my eyes every time; the sound and feeling is so natural, there are no words left to be said after hearing it. Working with him on Scriabin is one of the most magical experiences of my life. He opened my mind and ears to sounds I never imagined were even possible. The first Scriabin pieces I ever played for him were a couple of Etudes Op.8. His ideas were endless and so inspiring that I felt like bringing everything I could possibly learn of Scriabin, just to be able to witness as much of his magic as possible. ...and that's precisely what I did!
11. What demands are there for students who are just discovering Scriabin that are unique to him? Pick any, as few or as many as you like.
I often hear people comparing Scriabin to Chopin and Rachmaninoff and I´ve actually been told to play Scriabin´s music as if it were Chopin/Rachmaninoff. This is appalling! Of course I agree that Chopin was a source of inspiration for Scriabin, but in my opinion, trying to imitate Chopin would be almost a crime! In just a Prelude of his there is a distinct taste that I believe isn't something that can be reached by attempting to relate it to other composers who have written similar forms of music. Scriabin demands a different touch on the piano than Chopin, or any other composer in that matter. I feel like it demands a glassy element while also incorporating beauty, softness, urgency...
12. Would you want to speak with, party with, or be around Scriabin?
I would absolutely love to have had the opportunity to spend time with Scriabin! What a trip that would be. I wish I could have an insight into how his mind worked.
13. What aspects of Scriabin’s psychology, emotions, ideas, lifestyle, and being, have become important to your understanding of him as a composer?
Scriabin´s relationship with synesthesia is very evident in his music and his interest in Theosophy becomes present especially in his later opuses, although I believe that even the Mazurkas Op.3 and Etudes Op.8 have such elements that distinguish him greatly from Mazurkas of Chopin or Etudes-Tableaux of Rachmaninoff.
Preludes Op.11 No. 1, 2, 5, 9
Mazurka Op. 40 nr. 2