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Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Feuillet díalbum Op.45/1 [1.09]
Poeme - Vers la flame Op.72 [4.17]
Preludes Op.11 Nos. 2, 4, 5, 8-12 [12.41]
Preludes Op.13 [6.21]
Two Pieces for the left hand Op.9 [7.17]
Fantasie in B minor Op.28 [8.40]
Two Poems Op.31 [4.13]
Two Morceaux Op.57 [2.24]
Two Poems Op.63 [2.25]
Sonata No.9 Op.68 [6.45]
Sonata No.10 Op.70 [9.56]
Heinrich Neuhaus (piano)
No recording details


Frustratingly Classical Records do not date these performances. I assume that they were all made in 1953. They also present his name on their packaging in a way unrecognisable to all Ė Neighaus.

Itís unfortunate that such a percentage of Neuhausís discs were so relatively poorly recorded. Even live performances such as these Ė presumably - from the 1950s are marked by a distinct muddiness of texture and an echo-y indistinct sound quality. Even his commercial Chopin discs, some of which were transferred by Preiser in 2003, along with some Debussy and Scriabin, are disappointingly veil-like in this respect.

This all-Scriabin programme ranges widely. There are the Ninth and Tenth sonatas, the self-immolating Vers la Flamme, and lots of Preludes. In the hierarchies of Russian pianists he was less vertiginous than Scriabinís son-in-law Sofronitsky, less kinetic than Horowitz and maybe less obviously visceral than Neuhausís own pupil Richter. That said, despite the murky recording quality we can hear just those very qualities that elevated Neuhaus to so august a position in the pianistic hierarchy.

He may be more sanguine than Sofronitsky in the A minor Op.11 Prelude and less intense as well as slower but he points out the Chopinesque inheritance rather more humanly. Heís actually more reminiscent of someone like Gieseking in the E minor Prelude than a fellow Russian like Sofronitsky, though Neuhaus does vest the Prelude with rather more colour than Gieseking. His chordal depth and bell chimes in the Op.13 C major are magnificent; and heís actually, as he generally wasnít, quicker than Sofronitsky here. The superb playing is sabotaged by the recording quality but specialists will want to hear his playing if they havenít already on previous releases so important is it; it opens up other trajectories of Scriabin playing besides the ones already alluded to. In general Neuhaus is less tense, less febrile than Sofronitsky though his more aristocratic approach suits many of these Preludes very well indeed.

Urgency and rubato inflection mark out Sofronitskyís Feuillet díalbum, besides which Neuhaus sounds just a touch slow. But the Ninth sonata builds to a magnetic climax, despite the hollow sound perspective and the reverberation that splinters clarity. The Tenth sonata is dramatic and fulsome but is again maimed by a cloudy recording.

Admirers will not hesitate; generalists will reflect on poor sound quality. The notes are concise but this series scores highly for well-produced and attractive photographic reproduction. Unfortunately this Russian company doesnít cite source material nor, as I mentioned, recording dates and needs to revise its spelling of Neuhausís name.

Jonathan Woolf


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