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Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Piano Sonata No.1 in F minor Op.6 (1892) [24:56]
Piano Sonata No.2 in G sharp minor Op.19 (1892-97) [11:42]
Piano Sonata No.3 in F sharp minor Op.23 (1898) [18:59]
Piano Sonata No.4 in F sharp major Op.30 (1903) [8:04]
Piano Sonata No.5 Op.53 (1907) [12:55]
Piano Sonata No.6 Op.62 (1911-12) [12:41]
Piano Sonata No.7 White Mass Op.64 (1911-12) [12:49]
Piano Sonata No.8 Op.66 (1912-13) [14:58]
Piano Sonata No.9 Black Mass Op.68 (1912-13) [8:43]
Piano Sonata No.10 Op.70 (1913) [12:56]
Elina Christova (piano)
Rec. June, 2020 at Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY
Private Release [63:41 +75:02]
 
Elina Christova was born in Sofia and raised in Vienna. She studied with Hans Graf and Imola Fonyad in her early teens and later under Jenny Zaharieva. After her move to the US, where she now lives, she studied with Solomon Mikowsky. In tackling these ten sonatas she enters a field in which there is no lack of choice and there are quite a few highly praised complete sets; just a quick glance shows Marc-André Hamelin, Maria Lettberg, Peter Donohoe and Varduhi Yeritsyan and there are many others as well as countless individual recordings. At the outset I can say that Elina Christova makes an impressive entry into their ranks. She has all the requisite technique and is as effective in the later sonatas as the early ones, his op.6 sonata after all lying worlds apart from any of the sonatas from the fifth onwards.

I would not be unhappy with this set on my shelves though I wouldn't put it as my first choice. My top choice would be Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion records CDA67131-2) who also includes the Fantasie op.28 and the early Sonata-fantaisie or Vincenzo Maltempo (Piano Classics PCL10168). The sound is slightly clearer on Hyperion and Piano Classics allowing more fine detail to come through though it is excellent in all three. There is more character in the dynamic and rhythmic approach of Hamelin and Maltempo as well; compare the opening of the sixth Sonata where I prefer their greater contrasts and tauter rhythms to Christova's more generalised approach. While Christova is successful and often quite beautiful in the more lyrical sections she doesn't have the magical weightless quality that Hamelin brings to say the andante of the third Sonata and neither does the allegretto that precedes it dance as bouyantly as Hamelin's; I think I am in part thrown by the curious micro pause that she puts on the opening semiquavers of the theme. So too the opening of the ninth Sonata where the descending chromatic chords are presented with a disjointed rubato.

These caveats aside I wouldn't want to deter anyone from exploring the qualities of this fine set. There is lots to admire here; Christova grips the imagination from the very first flourish of the first Sonata and there is no shortage of dizzying virtuosity, dramatic tension or tender lyricism. She enjoys the grandeur of the earlier works, especially the first where she finds a stern weightiness to the concluding Funeral march and the presto – and it is presto, not the sluggish crawl of Igor Zhukov. She is equally at home with the enigmatic style of the later sonatas well. I was especially taken with her playing of the eighth Sonata where she balances the ever converging and diverging elements with skill; the final presto is delicious, full of impish caprice.

Rob Challinor



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