he began studies as a pianist Mikhail Arkadiev
is now a conductor, plying his trade at the Volgograd
Opera. He studied conducting at the Moscow State Conservatory
and the famed Gnessin Institute. But for the purposes
of this review the focus is his pianism in these recordings
made in Moscow in 1994 when he was in his mid thirties.
The recital gives us a canonic totem of the Russian repertoire,
Mussorgsky’s Pictures, the flammable witchcraft of Scriabin
including the stunning Fifth Sonata, and two works by
the pianist himself – a compact Scriabin-sized sonata
and a little pendant envoi.
opens in a measured way; then we go straight into Gnomus
is idiosyncratically but quite deliberately destabilized.
He varies the colour and articulation of the Promenades
well. The Old Castle
is listless and hung with cobwebs
straight out of Gormenghast. Not chilly; there’s a numbed,
becalmed stasis at work here. Bydlo
is not as graphic
as it can be and recedes nicely. The two Jews are rather
withdrawn, not grotesques, stern in places maybe but not
graphic; more cosmopolitan than Shtetl caricatures. Cum
is oddly refined, neither chilled nor especially
extrovert – an interesting and unusual take on it. The
Great Gate is rather bitty; the attempted monumentality
ultimately lacks force. The conclusion is very slow. Some
hits and some misses here in a performance that is not
at all dull.
trio includes Vers la flame
; the incremental tension
is palpable but Arkadiev doesn’t push
the tempo and it’s not the most volatile reading imaginable.
This is of a piece really, as his Fifth Sonata is slow.
Feinberg’s recording – amazing and in some ways outrageous
- is not necessarily the model here at ten or so minutes
flat but even so other players will often take eleven to
twelve minutes over the sonata. Arkadiev takes getting
on for fifteen. The result is that the syntax gets stretched
sometimes to the point of breaking and even beyond. One
applauds him for not elevating mechanism or speed as ends
in themselves but Scriabin’s sonata responds more readily
to the visceral impact of more tensile performances.
we have the two pieces by Arkadiev himself. Sonata
Op.1 was written in the 1970s. It sounds like
a curious compound of Scriabin and Messiaen and feasts
on dramatic internal contrasts and dynamics. It’s certainly
absorbed Scriabin’s obsessive intensity. By contrast Eine
is something of a charmer.
quality is pretty reasonable. This is a nicely rounded
and sometimes challenging disc. The accent is on the
performer-composer and that’s the angle for a prospective
purchaser as well.
see also review by Bob Briggs