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Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Scriabin chez Scriabin - Vladimir Sofronitsky, live at the Scriabin Museum, 1960 Sonata No. 8, Op. 66 (1912-13) [13:07]
Preludes Opp. 22/1 (1897) [1:18], 11/12 (1888-1896) [1:25], 11/13 (1888-1896) [1:29], 37/1 (1903) [1:49]
Poèmes, Opp. 41 (1903) [3:48], 61 (1911) [6:12], 69/1 and 2 (1913) [1:51 + 1:18]
Two Dances Op. 73 Flammes sombres and Guirlandes (1914) [2:02 + 2:31]
Preludes, Op. 74/3-5 (1914) [1:03 + 1:04 + 0:58]
Poèmes, Opp. 52/1 (1906) [2:25], 44/2 (1905) [1:00], 59/1 (1910) [1:42], 51/3 (1906) [0:54], 52/3 (1906) [1:00] Poèmes, Op. 71/1-2 (1914) [1:28 + 1:41]
Masque, Op. 63/1 (1911) [1:11]; Vers la flamme, Op. 72 (1914) [4:34] ; Fragilité, Op. 51/1 (1906) [1:45]
Preludes, Op. 11/2, 4, 6, 19 (1888-1896) [1:53 + 1:29 + 1:27 + 1:07]
Feuillet d'album, Op. 45/1 (1905-05) [1:13]
Poème in F sharp, Op. 32/1 (1903) [3:05]
Enigme, Op. 52/2 (1906) [1:07]
Mazurka, Op. 40/2 in F sharp (1902-03) [1:22]
Vladimir Sofronitsky (piano)
rec. 6 January 1960 at the Scriabin Museum, except Sonata No.8 recorded 24 December 1960
ARBITER 157 [72:38] 


Experience Classicsonline

Admirers of Sofronitsky’s Scriabin will need no prompting from me to acquire this tremendously important historical release. It enshrines a concert given at the Scriabin Museum in January 1960. With the exception of the opening item, the Eighth Sonata, which wasn’t recorded – and for which a substitute has been used from December 1960 - this is the recital as prepared by the pianist who was Scriabin’s son-in-law. 

The programme moves through fluidity and contrast to take in Preludes, Poèmes, and Dances and presents the Eighth sonata first, ending its journey much later with the F sharp Op.40/2 Mazurka. It does so moreover in ways that allow the listener to reflect upon the variousness and range of Scriabin’s writing, that journeys into the heart of its flammable dynamism, and also presents its liquid mysterioso elements fully affirmed and intact. 

The Eighth Sonata from December 1960 contains a pregnant sense of unease and fluctuation, the subtle colouristic waves sent forth with synaesthesic and treble flecked aptness. There is a corpus of great playing here as well as the profoundest of structural insights. The recording is good for the vintage and rather better than the Museum recital that follows given that - as must be admitted – the piano in use, Scriabin’s own, was in need of a thorough overhaul; it’s out of tune to a degree that will concern the casual listener and those who are not prepared to extend a sympathetic ear, and listen through these limitations. 

If you can do so, and such is the power of the playing that you almost certainly will, then be prepared to admire the passionate ascent of the line in the Op.22 No.1 Prelude, or the immediate contrast that comes with Op.11 No.12 and its romantic liquidity. So thoroughly sure is the sequence that the movement from the first set of Preludes to the Op.41 Poème is carried out with dream-like veracity, and here the mood intensifications and subtle shifts of harmonic emphases are bewitching. True there is shatter on the tape on occasion at fortes – one such is the Poème-Nocturne Op 61 and another is the Prelude Op.74 No.5 – but such moments are rare. So powerful is the playing that one imagines all too readily the many moments of proto-modernism enshrined in the music – Messiaen for example in the Op.69 No.2 ‘birdsong’ and the audacity and modernity of the Poèmes in particular are a constant feature of the playing. Vers la flame is truly powerful here but the Prelude Op.11/19 has an equal drama and a tumultuous life force. 

One must acknowledge the piano’s tuning and the nature of the recording, which is hardly hi fi; boxy as one would infer from a small room. These things are part of the deal. In short though this is a recital that deserves to stand in the august ranks of great Scriabin playing – which is to say alongside Sofronitsky’s own recordings and those of, inter alia, Richter, Neuhaus and Horowitz, all of whom have espoused something distinct and vital. The fact that it was recorded in the Scriabin Museum adds something special, though gainsayers would doubtless decry it as a sentimentalist position. Not me. This is a special recital. 

Jonathan Woolf 



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