Notes and Editorial Reviews
1997 International Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medalist Yakov Kasman recorded Scriabin’s first five sonatas for Calliope in 1996, following up with the remainder in 2003. The label reprinted the cycle as a two-disc mid-price release in 2005 that didn’t remain in the catalog for long. Strangely, Phaia Music’s reissue spreads the works across three CDs, although that shouldn’t concern collectors, given the modest price tag. This is Scriabin playing with a blunt, hard-hitting, visceral impact underlined by dry, close-up engineering that manages to reproduce the full-bodied sound of Kasman’s Steinway despite extreme stridency in the loudest music.
While the complex keyboard textures and sexy harmonic language would benefit
from a more resonant ambience, Kasman’s clean, honest, and powerful finger-work nonetheless triumphs under the microphone’s overtly intensive scrutiny. Listen, for example, to the dead-on, rapid left-hand octaves in Sonata No. 1’s Presto, or notice how No. 2’s whirling right-hand passages in the concluding movement retain both excitement and control.
Using little pedal, Kasman brings welcome rhythmic lilt and inner voice interplay to No. 4’s Prestissimo volando, although No. 5’s limited dynamic range and inconsistent suppleness yield to more incisive and nuanced recordings by Richter and Hamelin. At the same time, the fullness and definition of the low-lying murky chordal passages in Nos. 6 and 7 goes beyond the standard “mood painting”, and the long chains of trills in Nos. 8 and 10 are precisely even without sounding merely mechanical. Kasman slowly unravels No. 9’s opening pages and gradually works up to a febrile, high pressured climax.
In short, Kasman’s Scriabin cycle is stylistically similar to DG’s Roberto Szidon edition, and while stronger in purely pianistic terms, does not seriously challenge the still-unbeatable Hamelin and Ashkenazy reference sets.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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