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Modest Petrovich MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) [34:49]
Alexander Nikolayevich SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Vers la flamme (1914) [5:47]
Five Preludes Op.74 (1914) [6:17]
Sonata No.5 Op.53 (1907) [14:38]
Mikahil ARKADIEV (b.1958)
Sonata brevis Op.1 (1970s) [11:06]
Eine Kleine Zaubermusik Op.3 [2:38]
Mikhail Arkadiev (piano)
rec. Moscow, 1994
Experience Classicsonline

Though 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.
His Pictures opens in a measured way; then we go straight into Gnomus which 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 The two Jews are rather withdrawn, not grotesques, stern in places maybe but not graphic; more cosmopolitan than Shtetl caricatures.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 mortis 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.
The Scriabin 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.
Finally we have the two pieces by Arkadiev himself. Sonata brevis 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 Kleine Zaubermusik is something of a charmer.
Sound 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. 
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Bob Briggs



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