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Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Five Preludes, Op. 15 (1895/96) [7:13]; Piano Sonata No. 3 in F sharp minor, Op. 23 (1897/88) [20:42];
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Forgotten Melodies, Set 1, Op. 38 (1918-20) - Sonata-Reminiscenza in A minor [16:09];
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Three Movements from Petrushka (1921) [15:39]
Evgeny Kissin (piano).
rec. SWR-Studio, Freiburg, Germany, 7-8 August 2004. DDD
BMG-RCA RED SEAL 82876 65390 2 [59:55]


This is a well thought out recital that shows many of Kissin's strengths. Having heard the man in the flesh recently at the Barbican and been terrifically disappointed (review), it is something of a relief to report positively on him in the studios. This recording was made nearly two years ago.

The recital in effect leads up to the Petrushka pieces, but bear in mind this is one journey distinctly worth making and indeed savouring. The Scriabin Op. 15 Preludes are surprisingly intimate - although he underplays the Chopinesque elements in the first. There is good fluency to the second, good depth of sound to the third and real hyper-delicacy in the fourth.

The Third Sonata explodes out of the last Prelude, its initial left-hand dramatic octave gesture heightened in effect by its Kissin-generated context. Kissin seems at home, too, with the echt-Scriabinesque nervousness of the second movement, although the moments where Scriabin comes over all pastoral point towards the learned emotions of the Barbican recital. The finale is lovely, though; as delicate as silk. Here is the intimacy so lacking at the Barbican.

The Medtner similarly fares well, flowing perfectly. Delicacy once more is a major part of the picture, affording maximum contrast to the more metallic touch Kissin employs for the Stravinsky.

Of course here the competition comes in the form of Pollini's DG recording. Words such as 'superhuman' were not unusual in critical circles at the time of its first release - and subsequent reissues. Kissin is really the first pianist since to offer a real viable alternative. Rhythms are infectious; detail is astonishing. Glissandi are worthy of mention – Kissin's intent seems to make them sound almost electronically generated; I was reminded more than once of some of Stockhausen's electronic works! There is a real sense of theatre to the second piece, while the third buzzes and is notable for a highly developed sense of keyboard colour.

Amazingly this entire CD was recorded in two days. Well worth acquiring.


Colin Clarke

see also review by Tony Haywood



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