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Scriabin:The Piano Sonatas

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Includes FREE MP3 version of this album.
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Product details

  • Audio CD (24 Mar. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B0000041LG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,508 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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Disc 2
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Product Description

ASHKENAZY VLADIMIR

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Alexander Scriabin was a contemporary of Alexander Glazunov and a pupil of Anton Arensky at the Moscow Conservatoire where, for five years, he was later to become Professor of Pianoforte. Scriabin wrote many works for solo piano in his relatively short life - he was only 43 when he died. These 10 Piano Sonatas are some of the best known, but there are also 47 Preludes, 26 Etudes (Studies), and a number of Mazurkas and other works such as those played by Vladimir Ashkenazy on this Double Decca CD.

The funeral march that comprises the last movement of the Sonata No.1 expresses Scriabin's frustration at experiencing a hand injury that ended his hopes of a career as a concert pianist.
Sonata No.2 opens, somewhat unusually, with a slow movement of the two that make up this piece. Sonata No.3 is perhaps the most characteristic of Scriabin's piano compositions on this disc. The fourth and fifth sonatas reflect the passionate intensity of the orchestral Poems - of Fire and of Ecstasy. The remaining five piano sonatas are infused with Scriabin's new-found mysticism. Overall, a thoroughly entertaining collection brilliantly played by Ashkenazy.
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Format: Audio CD
These recordings by Ashkenazy were made over a number of years (in the 1970s and 1980s, both pre- and post-digitally) and consequently the sound is variable. Further, apparently some were live and some done in the studio. Still, there is an overall approach in his playing that makes the set cohere reasonably well, but some of the sonatas fare better than others. Unfortunately, there are some problems. Aside from the rather harsh sound in the earlier recordings, there is some difficulty with technique as well and perhaps some problems with the piano/s used. In the earlier recordings when the music calls for a forte or above the harshness worsens. I don't know whether that is Ashkenazy pounding, the piano he's using, or recording technique. In the softest passages, however, the sound is quite nice, so I'm wondering if the difficulty isn't with how the piano is regulated. At any rate, this is an uneven set in that regard. My favorites, in terms of performance and discounting sound, are the 3rd, 6th, 8th and particularly the impulsive youthful 1st. I also like the 9th; here Ashkenazy manages a luminous pianissimo. I dislike the 7th, which sounds mechanical, and in the 10th his trills - and there are more trills here than can be found in the throat of a Rossini coloratura - are uneven.
Whose recordings would I recommend? Well, I don't have the broadest experience of all the recordings available, but I do remember and like the LP set done by Ruth Laredo, although I haven't listened to them in ages, and I really like Marc-André Hamelin's recent set on Hyperion, although it is rather high-priced. (One advantage to the Ashkenazy set is its modest price.) I've heard some of Robert Taub's performances, although I don't own them, and what I've heard is excellent.
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Format: Audio CD
At faster tempi than Alexeev there is room on the two discs for the Deux Poemes Op. 32, Quatre Morceaux Opps. 51 and 56, and the Deux Danses Op. 73 in addition to the 10 sonatas. This makes an attractive introduction to Scriabin's development as it covers 1892-1914.

My own preferences are for the earlier more Chopin-esque sonatas with the incredible Funebre marking to the finale of the First Sonata. The later sonatas are certainly impressive but more challenging.

I have always enjoyed Ashkenazy's performances - having grown up with his Rachmaninov cycle (especially the Previn years) and his excellent Bartok and Prokofiev - but can see that he is clearly not to all tastes in this repertoire. I know Prokofiev was critical of Rachmaninov's take on Scriabin. Perhaps the inclination towards one composer means that it is harder to get under the skin of the other?
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