Alexander Scriabin

Piano Sonata No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 53

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Given the general outlook of the late nineteenth century Russian musical world into which Alexander Scriabin was born, and especially the pianistic outlook inherited from the legendary Anton Rubinstein, it is not surprising that in Scriabin's very first compositions the influence of Chopin and Liszt seems more powerful than the composer's own voice. Even the first few piano sonatas, though of far greater individuality than his youthful works, still inhabit the harmonic and thematic world created by the two earlier composers. By the time of the Fourth Sonata in 1903, however, Scriabin was rapidly moving towards the eventual atonal revolution that he would, completely independently from Arnold Schoenberg or any other composer, carry out on his music in the years before World War I. Four years later, the Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, by eschewing any traditional constraints of a central tonal area (the work is often described as being in F sharp minor, but this is not really the case, at least not without redefining what is meant by such a specific term -- one must not be misled by key signatures, which are there for the performer's benefit) and by pouring all the music into a single unique movement, takes a vital step in the direction of this personal upheaval. The Fifth Sonata, one of the most frequently played of the composer's works, owes a great deal to the orchestral Poem of Ecstasy, and for this reason the Sonata is occasionally given that same title. Both draw on a poem by written by Scriabin, of which four lines are affixed to the beginning of the Sonata (a passage which "calls to life" the artist's "hidden longings," an example of the composer's ever-increasing obsession with his own creative powers), and, while vastly different compositions, both represent the same feverish, concentrated musical world. A deep rumbling from the very bowels of the instrument "calls to life" this restless, 12-minute excursion into the most colorful of passionate realms. Delicate, evaporative harmonies built largely of fourths (rather than the more traditional thirds) ensue, wandering about apparently aimlessly but actually working their way to a heated but not violent outburst that does, for a time, seem to be pointing towards an F sharp tonal area. But B major is just as important to the work as its myriad episodes unfold, and the strongest cadential area (implied or otherwise) is the sustained pressure on E flat during the final portion of the piece. Just as we feel a final, well-earned resolution coming, however, Scriabin thrusts his virtuoso fieldwork up into the stratosphere, where it vanishes without a trace.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902255DI
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902255
    2018 Willowhayne Records WHR 054
    2017 Decca / London
    2017 Somm SOMMCD 2622
    2017 Sony Classical 88985395212
    2017 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186660
    2016 CAvi-music AVI 8553332
    2016 Thorofon CTH 2632
    2016 Bridge BCD 9468
    2016 Melodiya MELCD 1002312
    2015 Profil PH 15007
    2015 Sony Classical 88875038372
    2015 Hyperion CDA 67895
    2015 Paraty PTY 915136
    2015 Sony Classical 88843014702
    2015 Sony Classical 88843054582
    2014 Steinway & Sons STNS 30029
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 16
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2014 Acousence Classics ACOCD 12214
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 9145092
    2013 Dreyer-Gaido DGCD 21080
    2012 Sony Classical 88725413742
    2012 Sony Classical 88725406572
    2012 Honens 200302
    2012 Parnassus Records 96053
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94388
    2012 Phaia Music PHU 01921
    2011 Capriccio Phoenix / Capriccio Records 49586
    2011 Challenge Classics CC 72508
    2011 Yarlung Records 78873
    2011 Decca 440 281-2DH
    2011 Piano Classics PCL 0037
    2011 Pierian 0043
    2011 Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099990724
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Avi-Music / Cavi-music 8553195
    2009 Aeon AECD 0750
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 4778122
    2009 APR (Appian) 5671
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697575002
    2008 Ivory Classics IC77006
    2008 Fleur de Son Classics 57990
    2008 Audite 21402
    2008 Mirare 061
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
    2007 VAI Audio 1266
    2007 Apex
    2007 Vista Vera 96008
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 BIS 1568
    2006 VAI Audio 1256
    2006 L'Empreinte Digitale 13007
    2006 Ars Musici 1379
    2006 Cypres Records 1642
    2006 Arbiter ARBITER146
    2006 Classical Records 38
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946365332
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000764972
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000707302
    2006 Doremi Records 78649
    2005 Romeo Records 7232
    2005 Nonesuch
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2907366
    2005 Calliope 3254
    2004 Praga 54056
    2003 Brilliant 6137
    2003 Brilliant 99963
    2003 Urania 4215
    2002 Vox 5184
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575202
    2002 Praga 356020-34
    2001 Tudor Records 726
    2001 Rca Red Seal 84594
    2000 Americus Records 19991013
    2000 Amapola 9802
    2000 Telos 035
    2000 Music & Arts 878
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 VAI Audio 1176
    1999 Philips 456844
    1999 Pearl 9011
    1998 Dante 9329
    1998 Angel Records 72652
    1997 Denon Records 18026
    1997 Decca
    1997 London 452961
    1997 Calliope 9254
    1996 Nonesuch 73035
    1996 BIS 119
    1996 Naxos 553158
    1996 Pro Piano 224502
    1996 Hyperion 67131
    1996 Praga 354001.15
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 52622
    1995 Praga 254056
    1994 Harmonia Mundi 907141
    1993 London 440281
    1991 ASV 776
    1989 RCA Victor 6215
    1989 London 425579
    1988 Harmonia Mundi 907011
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423573
    Music & Arts 865
    Discover 920484
    Sound & Sight Productions
    Konzertreise 2005
    Brioso Recordings 105
    Music & Arts 1070
    Elan Recordings 2242
    IMP Masters 67
    Philips 422068
    Manchester 126
    Brilliant 6137/1
    Russian Disc 11056
    Arlecchino 119
    Nimbus 5176
    Piannissimo 10394
    Arkadia 910
    Zaven Parsamyan