Busoni • Scriabin

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Busoni,Scriabin
LABELS: Luminum
ALBUM TITLE: Eta Carinae
WORKS: Busoni: Sonatina No. 2; Toccata; Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 6; Two Dances, Op. 73; Flammes sombres; Five Preludes, Op. 74
PERFORMER: Olga Stezhko (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: LUMOS 1421011

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Olga Stezhko, a young Belarussian graduate from London’s Royal Academy of Music, makes a strong impression with this imaginative programme of little-played Scriabin and Busoni. Titled Eta Carinae, after the binary star system that might at any time explode as a supernova, the album’s ‘concept’ is perhaps OTT, but this doesn’t detract from the playing.

In late Scriabin, Stezhko is excellent at weaving the music’s spell from its unique combination of rhythmic complexity, harmonic daring and evaporating sonorities. If in the two Dances Op. 73 she doesn’t quite match the precision and magical colour of Arcadi Volodos or Sviatoslav Richter, these are tough comparisons for any young pianist. The Op. 74 Preludes are convincingly played, although in places would benefit from a tighter rhythmic focus. Scriabin’s Sixth Sonata is rather generalised and claustrophobic, without the mystery and definition of character we get from the more seasoned Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Stezhko admirably meets the demands of the two Busoni pieces, whether the dark Second Sonatina or the fearsome Toccata. Marc-André Hamelin may bring a tauter rhythmic punch and control, but the younger pianist’s drive and clarity are impressive. It’s a pity that the recorded sound is so unfavourable, with a muddy bass and clattering treble, and the playing time is miserly. Nevertheless, this is a promising talent.

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Tim Parry