A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Eteri Andjaparidze at the keyboard / Photo by Chris Lee

Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton brought their unique light and music experience called Spectral Scriabin to the Broad Stage on March 19.  The show originally premiered in October 2010 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City as part of the Lincoln Center White Light Festival.  Tipton’s lighting and Andjaparidze’s Scriabin together made for a powerful multisensory synesthetic simulation that continued to shine in my memories long after the music stopped.

Tipton is an internationally recognized lighting designer known especially for her work in theater and dance.  Her abstract treatment of Scriabin was totally original and was indeed evocative.  Coupled with Scriabin’s musical elements, she formed glowing sonic objects that hovered and slowly moved above, under and around Andjaparidze and her piano.  Pale disks of color bathed the backdrop and floor, punctuated with gentle cues under the piano and on Andjaparidze’s fingers, face and music.  The sound seemed to localize beyond the piano and emanate from the light, not unlike a ventriloquist effect.  Tipton’s design did not intrude on the music, but enveloped it and gave it an object-like quality of an energy that filled the room.

The lighting was subtle with delicate transformations often occurring below our perceptual threshold for detecting visual change.  As we attended to the colored forms, they appeared static, yet when we attended to Andjaparidze and returned to the background we would find that it had morphed into a new combination of hues and shapes.  The Gestalt was truly mesmerizing as the color and sound combined to evoke an elevated emotional response, especially interpretative with Scriabin’s more esoteric moments.  The palette of colors was narrow with little reliance on technical effects.

Alexander Scriabin was a multimedia pioneer who claimed to have a synesthetic perception of specific colors that were associated with musical harmonies.  His use of the Luce (color piano) in his orchestrations overshadows his contributions as an atonal innovator who was ahead of his time.  Scriabin was himself a pianist and a classmate with Rachmaninov, but his music took a distinctively less-mainstream path as he expressed his personality as a mystic and poet through his unique musical language.

Andjaparidze began in total darkness with the ungrounded opening chords of Vers la Flamme, Poème; light slowly illuminated her hands and face as she waxed legato over hollow harmonies of fourths over fifths.  In dramatic style, she dropped the pages of music on the floor and stilled the audience before moving on to the Quatre préludes (Preludes 1- 4, Opus 22) and Feuillet d’album in F-sharp major (Études 2,4,9,11, Opus 8).  In the Opus 8 Études, she was nimble and exact, but also in the more atonal pieces her fineness of touch successfully sculpted life and form into the music.  Throughout the program, Andjaparidze played marvelously; she captured the persona of Scriabin through all the facets of his music.  At times she was warm and lyrical, at others she was biting and hot.  She could be cold as well.  I really enjoyed her affective control as well as the selections, some of which are rarely performed.  The familiar Sonata No. 4 closed the concert with a dreamy affect that evolved into frenetic hopping chords as Tipton illuminated the stage and piano in her signature brilliant whiteness.

Spectral Scriabin is an amazing way to experience Scriabin’s visionary music, and this collaboration between Andjaparidze and Tipton was both effective and original – an experience to savor.  Bravo!

~Theodore Bell/Culture Spot LA