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REFERENCES: 1st, Etudes--Lettberg; 2nd, 5th, 9th--Sudbin; 3rd--Kissin; 4th,

6th, 8th, 10th--Hamelin; 7th--Glemser; Vers la flamme--Horowitz

Mikhail Pletnev's recording of the 4th & 10th sonatas along with shorter pieces
on Virgin records. This may be Pletnev's best recording.
Emil Gilels recorded the 3rd and 4th sonatas (stunning, powerful
performances) and the 4th is included on the BBC set titled Gilels Plays
Scarlatti, Beethoven, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Debussy. The 3rd can be found
elsewhere. The recording quality here is good.
Vladimir Sofronitski, a Soviet pianist who died in the early 1960s, is often
thought to be the best Scriabin pianist ever. There's a recording of the 8th
sonata on the Arbiter label that is very, very good. Also available is a release
on the Italian Vista Vera label which features a live all-Scriabin recital in
Moscow from 1960, with many different selections. This is the summit ot
Scriabin pianism but the recording is primitive, as in Soviet.
Finally, Volodos has what I think is a superb performance of the 10th Sonata in
his 1999 Carnegie Hall disc. ("Arcadi Volodos Live at Carnegie Hall.")

I have the following complete sets: Laredo, Taub, Ashkenazy, Hamelin,


Mikhailov, Szidon, Ponti, and Ogdon. I have two discs of Glemser and Horowitz,
and one disc of: Sofronitsky, Pletnev, Kocyan, Bogdonov, Florentino, Coombs,
Trpceski, and Richter.
Here is my list of suggested performances of the sonatas, taken from those
I've heard. They are ranked from left to right:
G#m posthumous: Hamelin.
Ebm posthumous: Glemser.
No. 1: Kocyan, then Ashkenazy, then Taub. Kocyan tells a story. Ashkenazy is
passionate. Taub is darker.
No. 2: Kocyan, then Glemser or Sofronitsky, then Ashkenazy. Kocyan's fluidity
takes it, but Sofronitsky is artistic. Glemser's first movement is beautiful.
No. 3: Laredo or Horowitz. Then Glemser or Taub. Then Ashkenazy or
Sofronitsky.
No. 4: Taub or Sofronitsky. The latter has more artistry, the former a more
coherent and appropriate tone.
No. 5: Horowitz or Taub. The former has electric genius, the latter has
wonderful refinement. Hamelin's is excellent (definitely his best Scriabin

performance). I've heard that Richter's is great, but I don't have it.
No. 6: Richter (genius but bad sound quality), then Taub. Hamelin's is athletic
and precise, although not mysterious.
No. 7: Glemser, then Laredo. The former brings out all the complexity with
precision, the latter is sharp and clear. I have not heard Richter's.
No. 8: Ashkenazy. Then Szidon or Laredo. I've read that Sofronitsky's is good,
but I don't have it.
No. 9: Sofronitsky, then Horowitz (all versions), then Glemser, then Szidon and
Taub.
No. 10: Horowitz or Taub. Same contrast of styles between the pianists as the
fifth sonata. Like the fifth, this is Taub's other brilliant performance.
Other pieces:
Fantasy in B minor: Glemser
Vers la flamme: Sofronitsky or Horowitz, then Laredo.
Piano concerto: Ugorski/Boulez, then Ashkenazy/Maazel. Both are excellent,
but I give the edge to Ugorski.
Poem of Ecstasy: Maazel
Prometheus: Ashkenazy/Maazel

I really enjoyed Ms. Laredo's Op.42 Etudes especially compared to the


acclaimed Chitose Okashiro recording. No.5 has a great projection of the
melody and voicing and she phrases beautifully without excess rubato.
Interestingly, Horowitz is also sparing with his rubato, but both have the ear
and technique for tone-color and texture in outlining the structure. Dynamic
contrasts are also stronger as in No.7 but not self-consciously so. Ms. Okashiro
does plays No.1 with more virtuosity and the sound is certainly better.

Volodos did a great job with Scriabin's Sonata No.10. However, you should still
turn to Glemser and Horowitz for a better performance.

Davidovich (available through arkivmusic.com), Pogorelich and Fiorentino


I have heard the fine sets by Taub and Lettberg, which have the advantage of
being digitally recorded and technically superior to the original analog
recordings of Laredo's, though musically the Taub loses too much momentum

at critical points for my taste and consistently lacks the passionate wildness so
essential to bring Scriabin to life. Lettberg's is a fine fine set (at more than
twice the cost) somewhat marred by the tubby bass-heavy piano that can
create listener fatigue, making so many of Scriabin's lower voices overly thick,
at least to my hearing. But she most certainly understands Scriabin and is
willing to take a risk when it's called for.
Scriabin loses the mystery and magic of feeling unless he's played with the
combination of restraint yet wildness and abandon and the extreme tonal
shadings that I feel Laredo has.
Try Andrei Gavrilov's performance of the 4th piano sonata: one of the finest
Scriabin interpreters, makes Scriabin's composition completely his own and the
hair on the back of my neck stand! Scriabin: 24 Preludes, Sonata No.4, Etude
No.5

Over the years I have heard live or have procured various pianistic
performances of Scriabin's music played by the likes of Hamelin, Ashkenaszy,
Horowitz, Richter; yet I have always preferred Ruth Laredo's sensuous,
broad,subtle approach to Scriabin's masterpieces. I still believe her "Vers la
Flamme" performance is the best for its unique passionate,even erotic
persuasions. To be frank, I'm primarily interested in Scriabin's "late" period
and have absorbed the beauty and "sensuosity" of sonatas 6 through 10.
Listeners and critics vary in their recommendations, their approval or otherwise
of the increasing performances of the sonatas now available to the interested
listener. Almost all the masters have dominated the bravura format,as
Scriabin's works are developed within extraordinary technical demands and
exigencies. Hamlin probably reigns supreme, at least,according to most of the
reviewers I've read. Opinions will vary, to be sure; reviews may be tendered by
professional, musical critics; or, they may simply be reflections, opinions, and
reactions of individual listeners intensely focused on Scriabin's inordinately
complex music. A problem with the Laredo recording unfortunately, is that it's
a"carry over' from an earlier performance recorded in the 1970's. Despite the
audio problems, I still love the Laredo dedication to the inordinate, complex
virtuosic demands. Her playing remains faithful, to a large extent, to the ever
mysterious, subtle, if not lascivious, voluptuous, qualities which all too often
haunt those demonic Scriabinesque harmonies. The performances are smooth
and not overly percussive,as I have noted in later recorded performances.