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Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief
Étude, op.8, no.12 (1894) [2:21]
Sonata No.2 (Sonate-Fantasie), op.19 (1892-87) [12:15]
Étude from Three Pieces, op.2 (1886) [2:34]
Four Mazurkas from op.3 (1888-89) [11:23]
Sonata No.5, op.53 (1907) [11:04]
Nuances from Four Pieces, op.56 (1909) [1:05]
Poème from Two Pieces, op.59 (1910) [1:31]
Sonata No.9, ‘Messe Noire’, op.68 (1913) [8:09]
Valse, op.38 (1903) [5:12]
rec. Västerås Concert Hall, August 2006. SACD hybrid
BIS SACD1568 [57:23]
“I create the world through the play of my
With my smiles, my sighs, my caresses,
My anger, my hopes, my doubts.”
Nikolayevich Scriabin said about himself applies in equal measure
to Yevgeny Sudbin – a pianist I have yet to hear in recital but
one who has achieved the highest acclaim on account of just
the handful of his releases on BIS. Gramophone is throwing
Editor’s Choice awards at him and David Hurwitz seems to have
fallen in love. When I listened to his premiere recording of
Scarlatti sonatas (reviewed on this site by Don
Satz and Evan
Dickerson) I was deeply impressed, too. Anyone who can
hold a candle to Mikhail Pletnev’s supreme Scarlatti earns
my immediate respect and admiration. Mr. Sudbin has arrived
at Scriabin – via Rachmaninov and Medtner – and
he convinces again at both intellectual and emotional levels.
It is so, even
if you don’t have “visions of light, golden ships on violet
oceans, and bolts of fire” during his or anyone else’s Scriabin
performance … I don’t. But then, I don’t subscribe to the pseudo-synæsthete
Scriabin’s vision-fuel of choice – LSD. Anything that’s already
as exciting in combination with Irish Breakfast tea does not
need additional substance abuse to become a thrilling ride
through Scriabin’s wafting and swirling, climaxing and relaxing
Not so much for
comparative but ‘paired’ listen I pulled out Pletnev again.
His is the ideal complement to Sudbin … and not only because
there is no overlap between them. Both couple a few sonatas
with other, miscellaneous works. Sudbin plays sonatas nos.2,
5, 9, Valse op.38, Étude op.8, no.12, and various other items
from Scriabin’s sizeable non-sonata output.
The best known
work is undoubtedly the Ninth Sonata – “Messe Noire”. Scriabin
did not give that name to his sonata – it was attached by Alexei
Podgaetsky in reference to its baleful nature as compared to
the open, light mysticism of the 7th sonata that Scriabin had
dubbed Messe Blanche. At 8’09, Sudbin is nowhere near
as fast as the somewhat banging Michael Ponti (VOX, 7’05).
Neither is he as tempered as Alexei Lubimov in his reading
sated with insightful calm and relaxed muscularity: ECM, 8’45 – a
recording I am happy to see having been equally thought of
as one of the gems of recorded pianism by Colin Clarke
review. Bold and powerful playing is combined with frequent
Messiaen-like touches here, but perhaps not achieving the fleeting ‘light
and shadow-sodden’ atmosphere of Haakon
Austbö (Brilliant, 8’20), or the disquieting storm that Sviatoslav
Richter conjures (Richter, Music & Arts, BBC Legends).
The investment which Sudbin brings to this sonata is evident
in his growling and panting during the most vigorous parts.
Sudbin leaves the sonata to run out in the most inconclusive
of ways, which is of course apt. The liner-notes, written by
the fiercely learned young man himself, suggest that this is
the sinister, eerie Ninth Sonata – whether of Satanist origin
or intent or not - the two Études sound like Chopin. But
with the care which Sudbin accords to all the smaller pieces
here they become revelatory. They offer depth beneath whimsy,
a foreshadowing of things to come beneath their rather unassuming
exterior. And yet, what a delightful change it is to plunge
from the mazurkas directly into the perverse Fifth Sonata.
This Sudbin plays with charged, carnal and prurient vigour.
Or listen to the organic pantonalism of the op.59 Poème.
If ever you were looking for the missing link between Debussy’s
Préludes and Schoenberg’s op.11 Klavierstücke, here it is,
courtesy of 91 wonderful seconds with Yevgeny Sudbin.
of Scriabin will find this voluminous and rich sounding disc
an essential addition to their collection alongside Horowitz,
Pogorelich, Austbö and Pletnev. Newcomers to Scriabin are
also encouraged to sample. It will be a mind-alteringly sublime
experience at best – and at worst it could not be more ill
than hell … not much at any rate.
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