Scriabin: Etudes; Preludes; Piano Sonata No. 10; Vers la flamme
Most of Olli Mustonen's recordings cover the standard repertoire, with masterpieces by Ludwig van Beethoven and Dmitry Shostakovich dominating his work list. This 2012 disc from Ondine shows Mustonen in a different light, delving into the mystical and slightly mad music of Alexander Scriabin. This program doesn't present an even or necessarily balanced survey of Scriabin's oeuvre, but goes from the early phase of the "12 Etudes, Op. 8"; the "6 Preludes, Op. 13"; the "5 Preludes, Op. 16," to the composer's final period in the "Sonata No. 10, Op. 70," and the tone poem "Vers la flamme, Op. 72." If this swinging from extremes is a little disconcerting for listeners, it is nonetheless instructive, because the continuity of Scriabin's virtuosic writing for piano is made apparent, even though the intense chromaticism of his language changes from relatively mild, Chopin-esque harmonies to nearly atonal dissonances. Mustonen seems to have chosen this program to point out these differences and to highlight the intricacy of Scriabin's music, though it might have been desirable to have included a work from the middle, impressionist period, if only to show that there was a gradual development in Scriabin's ideas, not a sudden lurch forward into modernism. Mustonen's technique is impeccable, and his control and precision make the music absolutely clear at every turn, which is especially important in the "Sonata No. 10" and "Vers la flamme." Ondine's DXD (Digital Extreme Definition) recording is resonant, fairly spacious, and full sounding, yet while much sonic breadth is gained in the mid-range microphone placement, some presence is lost.