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Structurally Important

Evgeni Mikhailov's
Scriabin sonatas -

'... commanding performances of powerful works ...'

Alexander Scriabin Complete Piano Sonatas. Evgeni Mikhailov. © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

To record all ten Scriabin piano sonatas over a period of five weeks is a formidable task, and at the age of twenty five is equally impressive. That they are fine performances makes this double CD issue even greater value. The recordings were made in the spring of 1998.

Over the ten years since, Mikhailov has toured Russia, Germany, Sweden and Italy and yet is still not as widely heard or seen as he should be. In 2002 he won the first Rachmaninov International Piano Competition in Los Angeles.

The ten mature Scriabin sonatas are spread throughout his short life -- he died in 1915 at the age of 37 -- and provide something not only autobiographical but also structurally important in the development of the form. The first and second sonatas were written about the same time (1893-7), the first in four movements ending with a powerful funeral march

Listen -- Scriabin: Funebre (Sonata No 1, Op 6)
(CD 1 track 4, 3:50-5:06) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

and the second a two-movement work with an extended Andante introducing a whirlwind Chopinesque Presto.

Listen -- Scriabin: Presto (Sonata No 2, Op 19)
(CD 1 track 6, 0:00-1:12) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

The third and fourth sonatas, written over the following five years, are similarly four and two movement pieces respectively, yet this time more fragmented, anticipating the better known style of the symphonies.

There is a hesitant impetuosity in the Prestissimo volando of the fourth and shortest of all the sonatas.

Listen -- Scriabin: Prestissimo volando (Sonata No 4, Op 30)
(CD 1 track 12, 0:00-1:14) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

With the fifth sonata, which ends the initial cycle, Scriabin produced the first of the single movement works that were to remain his favoured structure. In this can be heard the beginnings of the Poem of Ecstasy on which he was working at the same time.

Listen -- Scriabin: Sonata No 5, Op 53
(CD 1 track 13, 0:00-1:16) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

The remaining five sonatas were written between 1911 and 1913, wrapped in the 'mystery' that would unite philosophy, music, poetry, colour and the physical arts. The seventh sonata is majestic, completed shortly after Prometheus, and is full of the sound of bells ringing from the cosmic heights.

Listen -- Scriabin: Sonata No 7, Op 64
(CD 2 track 2, 10:10-11:20) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

The great ninth sonata, perhaps the most dramatic of Scriabin's piano works, begins with the 'dark forces' driving the listener through a nightmare which culminates in a fearful march.

Listen -- Scriabin: Sonata No 9, Op 68
(CD 2 track 4, 7:18-8:26) © 1998 Scriabin State Memorial Museum

These are commanding performances of powerful works that are rarely found as a complete set, and deserve a place in the collection of all who value the innovative style of a remarkable and rare pianist-composer.

Copyright © 24 January 2009 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK




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