Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 5; Piano Sonata No. 7 (White Mass); Piano Sonata No. 9 (Black Mass); Piano Sonata No. 10; Études, Opp. 2/1, 8/12 & 42/3; Mazurka, Op. 3/3; Preludes, Opp. 16/4, 27/2 & 48/4; Vers la flamme; Two Poèmes, Op. 69; Danse languide, Op.

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Scriabin
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 5; Piano Sonata No. 7 (White Mass); Piano Sonata No. 9 (Black Mass); Piano Sonata No. 10; Études, Opp. 2/1, 8/12 & 42/3; Mazurka, Op. 3/3; Preludes, Opp. 16/4, 27/2 & 48/4; Vers la flamme; Two Poèmes, Op. 69; Danse languide, Op. 51/4; Feu
PERFORMER: Dag Achatz, Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-119 AAD/DDD
Scriabin’s music requires a mercurial, almost diabolic pianism combined with languor and fantasy. Marc-André Hamelin, in his set of the sonatas for Hyperion (reviewed in June), has these qualities in abundance. Hot on the heels of that set comes Vol. 1 of a cycle from Bernd Glemser. There is much to admire here, but, for all his technical finesse, he can’t quite match Hamelin’s authority; nor is his piano so warmly recorded. There are some fast passages in which rapid figuration is skated over, where Hamelin makes each note, however brief, tell. Glemser’s greatest strength, though – a rare balance between muscularity and repose – is revealed in the later sonatas, where he really plumbs the depths of Scriabin’s mystic sound-world. This is a fine addition to the Scriabin discography, all the more tempting at bargain price.

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The BIS disc features two Swedish pianists: Achatz, with the Fifth Sonata and 15 miniatures taped in 1978 (reissued from LP); and Pöntinen, with Sonatas Nos 7, 9 and 10, recorded in 1987, but not released until now. The sound for Achatz’s half of the disc is rather flat and ill-defined, but there are some sensitive performances here. The slapdash Fifth Sonata, however, is an example of how not to approach Scriabin’s more manic mode – hell-for-leather, never mind the notes. Pöntinen’s contribution is more consistent and better recorded.

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Olympia bills its disc ‘Rare Scriabin’, though more than half of the 37 individual pieces are already available in other collections. Nikonovich’s playing is unsubtle in places and the Moscow recording makes his piano sound tinny, but the disc will be welcomed by repertoire twitchers for its rarities.