Ok so here's one more post before falling in bed (I hate when it gets quiet around here-on my end, that is). This recording also was I enjoying this morning, and it is still to this day my favorite interpretations of all six of the piano works here. Especially Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives" (Fleeting Visions) which happens to be work that I am very fond of-then again I love almost everything that Prokofiev ever wrote! The Scriabin is played with every bit of fiery passion; Scriabin's music commands such playing, and otherwise his piano works are not worth "attempting". One must have the proper "feel" for the music. Nikolai Demidenko is more than up to the challenge, his playing is nothing short of brilliant!
This is special—very special. Demidenko clearly has an extraordinary affinity and affection for the music of Scriabin and this is nowhere more apparent than in his extraordinarily beautiful performance of the Second Piano Sonata (Sonata-fantasy, Op. 19). The first movement (surely one of the most gorgeous movements Scriabin ever wrote) lives and breathes in the hands of this young virtuoso. His tone gradation and dynamic nuances are perfectly judged, and the ebb and flow and surging climaxes of what Scriabin called ''a vision of the sea remembered'' are superbly crafted. The Scriabin scholar Donald Garvelmann has described the tender lyrical second subject as expanding ''from bud to full bloom like time-lapse photography''—a poetic simile brought unerringly to life in Demidenko's exquisitely tender and spine-tingling performance. His breathtaking account of the second movement, an exhilarating Presto in 3/4 time, is a subtle blend of precision and poetry, and one constantly marvels at his delicate and expressive pedaling.
The six etudes and the Four Pieces, Op. 51 that follow confirm just how consummate a Scriabin interpreter Demidenko is; each miniature being beautifully crafted and jewelled to perfection. The Ninth Sonata is given a spacious though tightly controlled and cogent performance. Perhaps Demidenko doesn't quite achieve the satanic thrill as some performances—Ponti's Vox recording from the 1970s (nla) or Horowitz's 1965 CBS recording come to mind—but here there is greater subtlety and wider nuance coupled with an impressive overall conception of the work. The remaining Scriabin item Vers la flamme (musically perhaps Scriabin's most extraordinary work) is described marvellously in the excellent accompanying notes (by Ates Orga and Nikolai Demidenko) as ''a single emotional crescendo without pause from the first note to the last''. Indeed, it is an extraordinarily intense and elevating experience that places immense demands on the pianist's resources during its relatively short duration. Again, I could sight pianists who play this with more demonic frisson—Gordon FergusThompson for one in his splendid recording for Kingdom—but Demidenko plays with a burning inner intensity I find hard to resist.
With barely time to recover from the all consuming flames of the Scriabin we are confronted with a performance of Prokofiev's Visions fugitives that I can only describe as magical and compelling. In February I had the pleasure of reviewing Boris Berman's stunning performance on Chandos, but I have to admit that Demidenko's performance stands in a class of its own. Each flighting vision is irridescent with inspiration, and for sheer sonority, colour and tonal variation quite simply the finest on disc. The recording, made at The Maltings, Snape is immaculate and faultless. A remarkable debut recording.
*The files are listed incorrectly, by one track throughout (Scriabin's Sonata Fantasy is in two movements yet the files imported with the second track listed as the third track, i.e. the first mvt of the "Six Studies. Thus, track 4 is actually 3, track 5 is actually 4 and so on; I hope this makes sense-I am very tired! I started changing the names but only corrected tracks one and two as I haven't had time. Please go by the track listing on the back cover!