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Piano Sonata No 10, Op 70

'Scriabin: Complete Piano Sonatas' (CDA67131/2)
Scriabin: Complete Piano Sonatas
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Track 6 on CDA67131/2 CD2 [12'56] 2CDs

Piano Sonata No 10, Op 70
The Sonata No 10, Op 70, is perhaps one of Scriabin’s supreme achievements in its formal balance and concentration of expression. Here we are back in harmony with Nature: Scriabin described the work as ‘bright, joyful, earthly’ and spoke of the atmosphere of the woods: some commentators have heard bird calls in the opening bars. Perhaps there is an echo here of that late summer of 1913 at Petrovskoye, the country estate where, in a world soon to vanish in war and revolution, Scriabin put the finishing touches to his last sonatas. There are evocations, also, of insects, which Scriabin saw as manifestations of human emotion. The plan is, as before, a slow prologue followed by a sonata Allegro. The prelude is subdued and serene in tone but finishes with three ‘luminous, vibrant’ trills—a blazing vision of light and a sign of the structural importance of trills in this sonata.

As so often in Scriabin’s sonatas, great importance is given to the second subject, an upward-leaping theme marked ‘with joyous exaltation’ on its first appearance. Its recapitulation is one of the most extraordinary passages: the theme, once again in the middle of the texture, is accompanied by trills expanded into multiple clusters, an anticipation of the sonorities of Messiaen, evoking, according to the composer, ‘blinding light, as if the sun had come close’. The final dance in this sonata, where the material is drawn together into utmost compression, is a ‘trembling, winged’ one of insects; the final bars leave us in the peace of the forest.

Scriabin saw himself at this stage as on the brink of great new developments; ironically, as it turned out, he commented: ‘I must live as long as possible.’ He died, agonizingly, of blood-poisoning in 1915. His philosophical preoccupations prevented him from understanding the import of the outbreak of war in 1914: ‘The masses’, opined Scriabin, ‘need to be shaken up, in order to purify the human organization …’ Death, with an uncanny sense of timing, spared him the shake-up of the Russian Revolution. His interior world remains intact, a shared secret for all who wish to enter it.

from notes by Simon Nicholls © 1996

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67131/2 disc 2 track 6
Recording date
29 June 1995
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Scriabin: Complete Piano Sonatas (CDA67131/2)
    Disc 2 Track 6
    Release date: March 1996
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