Scriabin Piano Works – Sudbin
Writing in prose as delirious as his playing, Yevgeny Sudbin speaks in his accompanying nine-page essay of the incomprehension that greeted Scriabin’s half-crazed genius in both Russia and the West. I should add that America, too, was similarly baffled, reminding us that there are those who think “that the air is filled with green monkeys with crimson eyes and sparkling tails, a kind of ecstasy that is sold in Russia at two roubles a bottle”. This is entirely apt and, laying my cards firmly on the table, I should say that no pianist of any generation has, in my experience, captured Scriabin’s volatility so vividly as Sudbin.
In his choice of sonatas (ranging through Scriabin’s early, middle and late periods), his mix of drama and introspection are positively alchemic and entirely his own. It is as if the music’s very nerve ends are exposed to view and rarely have I heard a pianist prepared to take such risks on record. He takes virtuosity to the very edge at the end of the Fifth Sonata and his daredevil aplomb is at its height in the Ninth, suitably named Black Mass Sonata.
How he varies the colour, light and shade in the early D sharp minor Etude so that its familiar heroic octaves sound newly minted and never merely frenetic! His selection of Mazurkas is given with a breathtaking subtlety, making you long to hear him in Chopin, while his response to Scriabin’s command in the Fifth Sonata, presto tumultuoso esaltato, is like the vortex of a whirlwind.
All these performances are flecked with personal touches and brilliances above and beyond even Scriabin’s wildest demands.Finally, BIS captures Sudbin’s astonishing range of colours and sonorities, ranging from the utmost delicacy to an enraged uproar, in crystalline demonstration sound. This, put suitably euphorically, is a disc in a million.