WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 7; Piano Sonata No. 5
PERFORMER: Alexei Sultanov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2292-46011-2 DDD
The 1989 Van Cliburn Competition winner Alexei Sultanov is the latest in a long line of discoveries from the former Soviet Union to make his name in the West (born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he has now made his home in Texas). On the basis of this disc, he seems assured the same success already accorded such recent predecessors as Demidenko and Pletnev.
This collection of three of the greatest Russian piano sonatas reveals an astonishing pianistic technique, coupled with an acute sense of the music’s poetic and expressive needs. The adrenalin runs high in all three works. Sultanov’s Rachmaninov performance reveals a rare muscularity, admittedly not ideally served by the close, rather dry recording, though full of power and earthy emotion.
The more percussive Prokofiev is ironically more warmly recorded (it and the Scriabin date from an earlier session, but in the same studio) and Sultanov’s reading perhaps lacks the range of colour provided by Pollini in his famous recording (DG).
There is quite a leap of mood from the gentler, neo-classical moments of the Prokofiev to the sheer exuberance of the Scriabin, but Sultanov proves himself equal to both: while one might have hoped for a greater sultriness to the more voluptuous passages, his Scriabin leaps from one ecstatic moment to the next, the music literally ending mid-air in an anti-cadential flourish. Matthew Rye