Dag Achatz / Roland Pöntinen

Alexandr Scriabin: Piano Music

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As a sampler of Alexander Scriabin's piano oeuvre, this BIS album by Dag Achatz and Roland Pöntinen is intelligently laid out and easy to follow, mostly because every aspect of the visionary composer's development is represented, and clear distinctions are made in the way early, middle, and late works are played. For his program, recorded in analog in 1978, Achatz presents an even mix of etudes and preludes from Scriabin's youthful Romantic phase: a handful of character pieces and the Sonata No. 5 from the transitional, quasi-impressionistic middle period; and the two Poèmes, Op. 69, along with Vers la flamme, Op. 72, which represent the final stage of harmonic and textural complexity, as well as the emotional extremes and transcendental moods that dominate Scriabin's late music. The care and imagination Achatz displays in his execution and characterization of each piece make the first part of the CD quite interesting to study, especially if the listener is approaching Scriabin's music for the first time. Pöntinen's portion of the disc was digitally recorded in 1987, and fills out the second half with three masterpieces, which can be daunting for the uninitiated. However, because of Achatz's clearly understandable progression from Scriabin's youth to maturity, these late sonatas are easier to absorb. Also, because Pöntinen's interpretations are as nuanced and artful as his predecessor's, the whole presentation works rather well for a patched-together program. Some may detect a difference in the placement of the microphones: Achatz is reasonably close and clear, while Pöntinen seems situated at a middle distance and sounds slightly veiled in tone; otherwise, the sound of the disc is quite satisfactory for the time it was produced.

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