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Scriabin: Mazurkas (Andrey Gugnin)

Andrey Gugnin (piano) (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Andrey Gugnin (piano)
Hyperion CDA68355   75:09 mins


As Andrey Gugnin turns to Scriabin, there’s little if any of the turbulence he handled so fearlessly in his debut disc of Shostakovich sonatas. For Scriabin, as for Chopin – the Russian’s point of departure here – the mazurka form is not a pretext for pretty salon pieces but a means of introspective experimentation. Gugnin takes risks in making the Op. 3 set of ten so very interior; the many dying falls can produce a hypnotic spell dangerously close to torpor. Yet the unpredictable use of rubato and the sudden inward retreats keep soporific melancholy at bay.

Nearly a decade later, in 1898-99, Scriabin had a wider range of emotions to convey in the nine mazurkas of Op. 25, and a more unorthodox approach to the dance form, making them more companionable as a sequence. Octaves in the bass suggest an occasional intruding fate, and more fortissimo passages intrude, which Gugnin always scales down, but there is such virginal candour in the reveries – No. 2 is a meditative, luminous highlight, while No. 8 offers the best of both worlds – and the pianist handles them with exquisite sensibility. Sometimes I wish for a bit more of the clarity and less veiled upper register Peter Jablonski brings to the set in a strong recent contender on Ondine, but Gugnin’s journey to the centre of Scriabin’s refined, poetic essence offers other virtues. I’d love to hear what he makes of the ten piano sonatas, another journey of a soul spanning the composer’s entire creative life.

David Nice

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