Alexander SCRIABIN (1871-1915)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 2
Piano Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op.6 (1893) [21:42]
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G flat minor, Op.19 Sonata-Fantasy (1892-97) [11:27]
Piano Sonata No. 6, Op.62 (1911-12) [12:01]
Piano Sonata No. 7, Op.64 White Mass (1911-12) [12:05]
Poème in F sharp major, Op.32 No.1 (1903) [3:44]
Prelude in G minor, Op.27 No.1 (1900) [1:41]
Four Preludes, Op.37 (1903) [5:50]
Deux Morceaux, Op.59 (1910-11) [3:37]
Deux Poèmes, Op.63 (1912) [3:37]
Matthew Bengtson (piano)
rec. Piano Craft, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, no date
ROMÉO RECORDS 7308 [75:37]

This is the second volume in Matthew Bengtson’s two-disc survey of Scriabin’s Piano Sonatas, a journey that has the time to take in a series of other works as well. The earlier release was on Roméo 7232.

He has the misfortune to have been recorded in a dry and cramped acoustic which doesn’t allow any bloom to the sound – Piano Craft, Gaithersburg, being the location, though the date is unmentioned in the booklet notes; an omission in which this company is beginning to specialise. Nevertheless Bengtson has virtues as a Scriabin interpreter and has clearly immersed himself in the composer’s vivid sonic and intellectual world, is scrupulous as to editions employed, but rather overplays Horowitz’s role in the promotion of Scriabin’s music. Sofronitzky? Neuhaus? Feinberg?

He is a meticulous musician and plays the First Sonata with clarity, but somewhat at the expense of forward motion. It’s well-scaled playing but for so powerful a work it sounds rather static and the phrasing reined in. Certainly there is intensity in readings of the Sonatas Nos. 6 and 7 and it’s the boxy recording, rather more than any interpretative decisions, that limit one’s optimum pleasure. That and, I feel, a lack of real devilry in No.6 in particular, where the Mephistophelean element feels underplayed.

This applies to the smaller pieces as well. I can’t help feeling that the Poème Op.32 No.1, whilst conventionally pretty, lacks much semblance of the active across-the-barlines intensity of Sofronitzky’s reading. Similarly the Russian player brings out the radical, wave-like rapidity of the Masque movement from the Op.63 set, allied to which there is – despite the old recording – vertiginous tonal depth. Bengtson’s Masque, by contrast, sounds rather shapeless.

Conscientious though much of this recital is – and I’ve not heard the earlier volume, but presume it reflects this disc’s aesthetic – there’s little real excitement or colour here. And the pianist is certainly not helped by the recorded sound.

Jonathan Woolf


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