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Poets from the East
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Preludes Op.11 (1888-1896) [31:19]
Ma SHUI-LONG (b.1939)
A Sketch of the Rainy Harbour (1969) [8:10]
Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b.1980)
Nocturne [2:29]
Modétudes (c.1999) [9:10]
Leonid DESYATNIKOV (b.1955)
Echoes from the Theatre
From Kashchey's Life [2:14]
Jamais (Elegy) [3:47]
Rondeau-chase [1:38]
In Honour of Dickens (Waltz) [5:07]
Nocturne (from the film Giselle Mania) [3:42]
Credit Titles (from the film Evenings near Moscow) (1994) [3:56]
Evelyn Chang (piano)
rec. St George's, Bristol, September 2008
AVIE AV 2168 [72:19]

Experience Classicsonline

This finely engineered disc, recorded in St George's, Bristol - increasingly a venue of choice for recitals - presents a rather intriguing programme fuelled by inter-relations, reflections and colouristic associations. At its centre stands the Scriabin Op.11 Preludes, synaesthetically bound to other works, principally that by Ma Shui-Long, but by association, at least, with much here. Russia, Taiwan and Bulgaria are the geographical points around which another element of the programme revolves and it all makes for wide ranging listening.

One should start with the works that exert the strongest gravitational pull, those powerful Preludes, written over a dozen or so years toward the end of the nineteenth century. Evelyn Chang proves a dextrous guide to the repertoire, fluid and athletic in the G major, colour-strong in the agitato of the F sharp minor, and tempo-perfect in the B minor [No.6]. There is considerable subtlety in this playing and a strong sense of the music's volatility and purposeful drama. It's only when one turns to such as Sofronitzky that we can note the vertical sense of characterisation that he brings to bear and which few have ever even attempted to match. His cussedness illuminates the B minor that, with the elemental chordal power that he brings to bear, lifts his performance into the stratosphere of Scriabin playing. So finely though she plays it, in the E major his brushstrokes produce piano painting of trance-like allure and in the case of the F major [No.23], well though she dispatches it, it does rather lack the fervid, torrid drama of the best performances.

Ma Shui-Long is a Taiwanese composer and painter and he wrote A Sketch of the Rainy Harbour in 1969. It's cast in four, very brief movements. He makes great pianistic play of 'strong' and 'soft' rain allowing delicate impressionistic tracery and more florid outbursts and dolorous bass repetitions. This evocative little narrative involves a culminatory Temple 'wind and percussion' ensemble blazing away - vivacious and strongly chordal.

Dobrinka Tabakova's Modétudes explores the Modes. She's another composer who colour associates music. In a compact nine minutes this Plovdiv-born young composer takes in an array of moods and impressions. The Dorian mode has minimalist elements but it's far too active and vibrant to be pigeon-holed in this way. The Lydian is warm and lyric whilst the Ionian sports some ice-marble treble The Locrian is march-like and powerful, and the Mixolydian exuberant. Engaging studies, splendidly realised. Her Nocturne, recorded here, is part of a forthcoming Concerto for piano and chamber ensemble written for this soloist - and it's a 'brief meditation'.

Finally there is the suite from Echoes from the Theatre by Leonid Desyatnikov, rather hard to describe but essentially filmic. There is wan lyricism in the first extract but a more active and slow moving tristesse in Jamais. The highlight is probably the Keystone Kops hi-jinks of Rondeau-chase but there's romantic urgency in In Honour of Dickens and a Chopin-derived Nocturne from the film Giselle Mania.

It's certainly an intriguing programme, not easy to classify, but finely presented and performed.

Jonathan Woolf

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