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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67131/2
Recording details: June 1995
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: March 1996
Total duration: 12 minutes 19 seconds

'He commands the four qualities that a Scriabin interpreter must have: a feverish intensity, a manic vision, a sovereign and fastidious command of the pedal, and a huge dynamic range' (Gramophone)

'Hamelin rises to the challenges of this music with complete mastery. But his is more than a purely technical triumph (though the effortless of his playing has to be heard to be believed)' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This is one of the most significant Scriabin recordings of recent years, as well as another triumph for Hamelin, who reveals as much affinity for this Russian mystic as he has for Alkan, Godowsky, Ives, and Bolcom on earlier discs … Two more favorable elements must be noted: Hyperion's spacious and vivid recorded sound, and a really superb set of booklet notes by Simon Nicholls' (American Record Guide)

'Hamelin's playing enthralls the ear with its rounded, never-ugly tone, flickering fingerwork, and thunderous power. A sensational issue in every sense' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Hamelin's playing has superb authority and presence, and when required the greatest delicacy too. His amazing technical skill is completely at the service of the music. This is a major release' (Classic CD)

'Hamelin's revelatory cycle of the Scriabin sonatas takes top honors rather easily … a vein that's rarely been mined—and never with such virtuoso perfection. The more you think you know about these scores, the more striking you're liable to find this set' (Fanfare, USA)

'Marc-André Hamelin is the most important interpreter of Scriabin's music to have come along in decades' (Clavier)

'Il a les doigts et la sensibilité, la clairvoyance aussi, qui lui permettent de trouver un lyrisme généreux' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

Piano Sonata No 2 in G sharp minor 'Sonata-Fantasy', Op 19
composer
1892/7

Andante  [8'41]
Presto  [3'38]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Sonata No 2 in G sharp minor, Op 19 (1892–7), takes its inspiration from nature: the sea, which Scriabin first experienced on a trip to Latvia in 1892. A visit to Genoa in 1895 may have been a further stimulus, but the Sonata was not finished until another turning point in Scriabin’s life had been reached: his marriage to the pianist Vera Isacova in 1897. Their honeymoon took place in the Crimea, on the shores of the Black Sea. The composer wrote a short ‘programme’:

The first part evokes the calm of a night by the seashore in the South; in the development we hear the sombre agitation of the depths. The section in E major represents the tender moonlight which comes after the first dark of the night. The second movement, presto, shows the stormy agitation of the vast expanse of ocean.

This does not represent a turning away from personal emotion: the sea is an ancient symbol for the psyche, and the Sonata represents an early example of Scriabin’s later tendency to equate the phenomena around him with his own interior life. The piano writing has done away with the bombast of the First Sonata and returned to the delicacy and filigree of its youthful predecessor. The brooding opening makes use of a motive, rhythmically the reverse of that in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which dominates the movement. At the move to B major the music has a subtlety and spontaneity of rhythmic articulation rarely heard before in Scriabin’s music, and the second subject is one of Scriabin’s happiest inspirations, a soaring melody placed in the middle of the texture, with glittering figuration around it like sunlight or moonlight playing on dancing waves. Scriabin saw colours when he heard music and erected an elaborate synaesthetic system on this basis. The key of E, in which this movement ends, an unusual departure from the norm for Scriabin, was to him bluish-white, the colour of moonlight.

The device of embedding the melody in the middle of an arpeggiated texture goes back to the virtuoso Sigismond Thalberg (1812–1871), whose speciality it was. Liszt, who played in competition with him in 1837, often made use of the device, most famously in the concert étude ‘Un Sospiro’. A favourite device of Scriabin, who liked to give the melodic line to his stronger left hand, it reappears in the slow movement of the Third Sonata, the end of the first movement of the Fourth, and in the Seventh and Tenth Sonatas. A further device used in the late style emerges in the Second Sonata’s opening movement: exposition, development and recapitulation all start with the same music. Not an unusual way of writing a sonata movement, but an essential aural signpost in the complex worlds of the Ninth and Tenth Sonatas. The initial motive also returns at the end of the movement, a feature of those works as well as of the Fifth.

The finale of the Second Sonata is a moto perpetuo; from this restless background emerges a heroically climbing, aspiring melody. Siegfried Schibli has pointed out that this theme is left incomplete until its final appearance near the end of the movement. Perhaps Scriabin had in mind the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’, where the second subject is treated in the same way. Characteristically, Scriabin was dilatory about taking the decision to send off the completed manuscript until practically ordered to by Belaiev, who had published the First Sonata in 1895. As a result, the metronome marks we see in the published score are not Scriabin’s, but were provided by Liadov.

from notes by Simon Nicholls © 1996

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