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Peter Donohoe brings brilliance to Scriabin


Scriabin, The Complete Piano Sonatas performed by Peter Donohoe (Somm, two discs)

An oddity of the piano sonatas of Alexander Scriabin is that, for magnificent music that is as distinctive as it is, there are a vast number of ways to perform them.

Personalities of complete sets of them are very different. The cold, technical perfection of Roberto Szidon brought out paradoxical fire and malevolence. Hilde Somer's versions were passionate, explosive, tempestuous and mystic. Ruth Laredo's complete Scriabin set stood, for some years, as among the best available along with Vladimir Ashkenazy's set. Here is a great English virtuoso pianist who specializes in thorny modernists (Prokofiev, Bartok, Messiaen) whose version of Scriabin's sonatas is almost introverted. In other words, what you're hearing here is Scriabin the great pianist and musician more than the mad, mystic, proto-atonalist genius whose "Black Mass" and "White Mass" sonatas as well as "Vers La Flamme," (also included here,)  turn Lisztian sulfur into one of the most influential of all pianistic dialects.

There is nothing wrong with a musician dealing with madness and mysticism with the foursquare resources of music and nothing more. But it's the extra brilliance in Laredo', Ashkenazy's  and Hilde Somer's performances (among others) that gives you a fuller portrait of Scriabin's much-imitated but inimitable genius.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)


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