Stefan Vladar

Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas Nos. 6 & 7; Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 2

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Stefan Vladar has proved to be a very versatile musician, performing not just solo piano music, but also chamber music, and performing as conductor, and choosing repertoire from a number of different eras and countries. These sonatas by Prokofiev and Scriabin are his first recordings of Russian piano music, and his readings are as expressive as his technical skills are impressive. Beginning with the first two of Prokofiev's three "War" Sonatas, there seems to be no end to Vladar's stamina and control, especially in a movement like the finale of the Sonata No. 7. These sonatas are as full of striking changes in mood and articulation as a Beethoven sonata, and Vladar consistently makes sure that the listener can follow the lines and textures sensibly and sympathetically. The Sonata No. 6 makes its own dramatic entrance, and Vladar doesn't shy away from it, yet throughout the sonatas his playing isn't so keen and percussive or so youthfully heated or brutal that it ever jars the listener. This is a more mature, complexly emotional, reading of Prokofiev's musical thoughts on World War II. Completing the program, the Piano Sonata No. 2 of Scriabin is a bit of a non sequitur and isn't really explained in the accompanying notes (these, in fact, talk about Scriabin's later music, which is miles beyond his early works like this sonata). The logical conclusion to the program would have been Prokofiev's last "War" sonata, the Sonata No. 8. Here, the late Romanticism and lyricism of the Scriabin transport the listener backward to a more elegant and lush form of passionate, musical expression. Vladar exerts the same control over his phrasing so that while there is a lot of intensity, it's tempered by tenderness, even in the Presto movement. He shows that he understands this repertoire as well as he does the Germanic Romantic music of his earlier recordings.

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