Vladimir Sofronitsky plays at the Scriabin Museum - Volume 7
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
10 Pieces; A Legend Op.12 No.6 [2:37]
20 Visions Fugitives Op.22 – selection; Nos 1-7: 10-12, 17-18 (1915-17) [11:19]
Five Sarcasms Op.17 (1912-14) [9:14]
4 Pieces; Fairy Tale Op.3 No.1 (1911) [2:22]
Piano Sonata No.7 Op.83 (1939-42) [16:01]
Tales of an Old Grandmother Op.31 (1918) [8:11]
Piano Sonata No.3 in A minor Op.28 (1907 rev 1917) [6:50]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Prelude and Fugues Op.87 (1950-51); Nos. 9 [4:18] and 3 [3:15]
Vladimir Sofronitsky (piano)
rec. 10 April 1955 except Sonatas 3 and 7, Tales of an Old Grandmother and the Shostakovich, 11 June 1955, and Legend, 9 February 1957, Scriabin Museum
VISTA VERA VVCD-00225 [64:27]

Vista Vera has been engaged in some fine restoration work on behalf of Vladimir Sofronitsky. This disc is part of a continuing series, and it presents recitals given in concert at the Scriabin Museum in the mid-1950s. That said, there is a sonic mountain to climb, and this concerns the terrible state of the Museum’s piano. It’s for this reason that so many of Sofronitsky’s otherwise valuable recitals are rendered at best of only archival interest. Others were poorly recorded, or are difficult to find. The extensive Denon series of 15 CDs proved that Japanese interest in the pianist is alive and well, but that series of discs is hard to find now. Arkadia, Arlecchino, Multisonic, Philips and – of late - Brilliant have all done their bit too.

So, however valuable it is to have a nearly all-Prokofiev programme at one’s disposal, there is little sense in being sentimental about things. The Visions fugitives are brilliantly played – or might have been, because it’s impossible really to tell from the miserably out-of-tune piano. I think one can intuit that he plays splendidly from the third piece, which he drives into faster even than the composer himself in his 1935 recording, but of this selection of 12, not one is free, obviously, of the piano’s ruinous effect. The Five Sarcasms are similarly afflicted. Surface noise would have been much preferable to this endemic problem. He matches Richter stride for stride in the Seventh Sonata – Richter’s live 1953 live performance is on Parnassus - except that Sofronitsky is that much faster and more incisive in the central movement. The piano’s tuning is a bit better here, but still not good. The same is true of the performance of the Third Sonata. As the performance on Brilliant 8975 (a 9 CD box) shows, his way with Tales of an Old Grandmother was very consistent indeed over the years. The pendant is his playing two of the Shostakovich Op.87 Preludes and Fugues.

So, regrettably, and despite glimpses of his majesty as an interpretative musician, the horrible piano does for this one. You’ll need to be a seriously hard core collector to put up with it.

Jonathan Woolf

You’ll need to be a seriously hard core collector to put up with this one.