SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 3 in F# Minor; 5 Preludes, Op. 15; MEDTNER: Sonata–Reminiscenza in A Minor; STRAVINSKY: 3 Movements from Petrouchka – Evgeny Kissin, piano – RCA

by | Nov 2, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 3 in F# Minor, Op. 23; 5 Preludes, Op. 15;
MEDTNER: Sonata–Reminiscenza in A Minor, Op. 38, No. 1; STRAVINSKY: 3
Movements from Petrouchka – Evgeny Kissin, piano – RCA
82876-65389-2  59:53

This alternately reflective and bombastic venture into Russian music
derives from sessions recorded August 7-8, 2004 in Freiburg, Germany,
with Evgeny Kissin’s evoking intimate and passionate sounds from the
Hamburg Steinway. Composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) finds the
sides of his own nature represented, with the 5 Preludes (1892) and the
Third Sonata (1900) – the former opus indebted to Chopin, the latter
indebted to the composer’s personal mysticism. Having been exposed to
much of Scriabin’s elitist repertoire through Vladimir Horowitz, we
find Kissin’s approach just as idiosyncratic, with his trying to
balance intimacy with spiritual aggression. The inner voices in the
opening two movements alternately collide and coalesce in what the
composer called “transient and illusory rest.” The compositional
technique might owe much to Chopin’s B-flat Minor Sonata. The third
movement Andante is lovely enough to win Rachmaninov’s envy. The knotty
chromatics of the finale prove undaunting to Kissin, who pedals the
tempest into grudging submission.

The music of Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951), despite efforts from Benno
Moiseiwtisch and Emil Gilels, has not imported well. Medtner’s music
drips with sensibility, but the melodies do not lie easily upon the
ear. He seems a pianist’s composer, providing rewards to the finished
technician, but the casual auditor hears only keyboard effects. The A
Minor Sonata (1920) is cast in one movement, The prevailing emotion is
nostalgia, which places Medtner well within the emotional parameters of
Rachmaninov. But despite the scholar’s accession to Medtner’s well-hewn
sense of form, the music wanders, with occasional soft, pliant and
repetitive tendresses. The few emotional eruptions, even a bit of
fugato, do not transfix us, although they hint at the thick passages in

Stravinsky’s Petrouchka ballet transcription for piano came about from
an exchange with Artur Rubinstein in 1919; that Rubinstein performed
the piece up through 1961 makes us wonder why RCA has never issued a
concert performance.  We have had some mighty inscriptions,
nevertheless, not the least of which is that of Gina Bachauer. After
the thick, elastic curls of the Medtner, Kissin’s brittle, biting
version comes as a shock, the pungencies stark and bouncy. The
staccatos are fluid, percussive but mixed with the lyric temperament.
Kissin’s capacities for brilliant colors have just been waiting to
pounce on the Le Semaine grasse section, where melody and striking,
whirling circus accoutrements proliferate. Zesty, exciting music-making
on all levels, in excellent sonics.

–Gary Lemco

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