Ruth Laredo has chosen, as a specialty, the music of Alexander Scriabin, some of the most difficult in the piano repertoire. A composer who was not so much inspired as possessed by the visions that drove him to increasingly daring musical extremes, Scriabin was blessed, nonetheless, with the will and the genius to express himself in textures of marvelous clarity and in harmonies of stunning originality, and Laredo is blessed with the artistry and the skill needed to do his music justice.
Her program at the University of Maryland's Center of Adult Education Saturday framed a splendid Scriabin sampling with short pieces by Tchaikovsky, Scriabin's mentor; a group of preludes and the like by Rachmaninoff, Scriabin's classmate; and the marvelous one-movement Sonata No. 3 by Prokofiev, Scriabin's antithesis.
This is all highly romantic music, and Laredo dove into its lush sonorities with compelling abandon. But her finest moments came with her subtle handling of weight in the opening "January -- At the Fireside" by Tchaikovsky, in her controlled accumulation of power in Scriabin's Sonata No. 9, and in her skillful handling of the almost orchestral textures of the Rachmaninoff.
That she managed this all on a jarringly brittle-sounding piano was more remarkable still.