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This is a glorious recording. Complete cycles of Scriabin piano sonatas are not as frequent as one might like, yet this comes up against a significant recent one, from British pianist Peter Donohoe (Somm). The later sonatas in particular (Nos 7-10) provide some of the most sophisticated, challenging music written for the piano. The cycle’s trajectory is from the post-Chopin harmonies and Lisztian rhetoric of No 1 (interpreted superbly here by Ohlsson) to the heady otherworlds of the Black Mass and White Mass.

Ohlsson has the ability to pinpoint the emotional temperature and aura of each sonata precisely, and this is his greatest strength. The sensuous Fourth, the crepuscular Fifth and the powerful, muscular Sixth are all bullseyes, while the impetuosity of the Seventh and the enigma of the Eighth are stunning. The Tenth is almost impossibly beautiful; the Fantasy acts as a relaxant after the sensuous overload of the later sonatas.

Playing of humbling virtuosity and a superlative grasp of Scriabin’s language: a must-have.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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