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Dip Your Ears, No. 223 (Vadym Kholodenko's Scriabin)

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Alexander Scriabin
, Preludes, Etudes et al. for Piano
Vadym Kholodenko (piano)
Harmonia Mundi

The Ukrainian Vadym Kholodenko, 2013 gold medalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano competition (and sufferer of unfathomable tragedy) performs select compositions of the wildly sensualistic Alexander Scriabin on this disc: in chronological order with the two central Fourth and Fifth Sonatas as the pillar on this journey through the composer’s easy-to-follow progression. He does this in polished, well-behaved manner on a Fazioli. I don’t mind subdued Scriabin – assuming it leads to a richness of color and atmosphere; nebulous, seductive and otherworldly. Scriabin at his best is an all-absorbing sensory experience. Unfortunately such performances are extremely rare. (Håkon Austbø, Yevgeni Sudbin, Mikhail Pletnev and Alexei Lubimov come to mind.)

Here, I am not so sure if the threshold is met. Kholodenko’s sensitive playing comes pretty close and makes for an incisive introduction to Scriabin’s piano music, but I am left wanting a bit more sensuality and (or) lick of the dark flame. Then again, he has plush sensitivity down pat and I am already intrigued to re-listen. Jed Distler on ClassicsToday finds the performances low-voltage – perhaps more disappointingly so than I do – but enjoys “the smaller, lyrical Preludes, such as in his lovingly flickering performance of Op. 16 No. 2, or in the gorgeous way that he projects Op. 16 No. 3’s long arching phrases across the footlights.” Scriabin-lovers might want to sample.

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