MUSIC REVIEW; Four Hours of Scriabin's Sonatas and Other Piano Thrills
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Paul Griffiths - The New York Times
Four hours of Scriabin, one paroxysm at the piano exploding or evaporating after another, might be thought too much. But no: Thursday's concert of the complete sonatas and more, given by members of the Alexander Toradze Studio at the Society for Ethical Culture for the Rock Hotel PianoFest, just became more and more enthralling.
That was partly because the music got better -- not gradually but with a Scriabinesque leap as the Fourth Sonata began. It was also true because some excellent and even remarkable musicians came onstage for the later sonatas.
The community of pianists that Mr. Toradze has gathered around him at Indiana University South Bend ranges from students to fully formed artists, and nearly all who appeared on this occasion were well suited to the pieces they played. To begin, a sonata that Scriabin wrote at 14 was given a smart, likable performance by Giorgi Chkhikvadze, not too much older. Ketevan Badridze played the first numbered sonata, from seven years later, with a nice combination of rubato and dynamic sway, and strong concentration in the funeral-march finale.
Sean Botkin then added the first signs of future Scriabin, with his nice feeling for the rise to ecstatic silence that recurs in the Second Sonata, where he also produced beautiful effects of light on waves. Svetlana Smolina created a storming, breathing piano in the Fantasy in B minor, a work from just before the crucial Fourth Sonata, which Vakhtang Kodanashvili played admirably: the steel and the vegetation were both there in abundance, growing into each other. Later he had less luck giving a convincing shape to the Eighth Sonata.
Meanwhile, Irma Svanadze commanded impressive varieties of weight, down to a brushing lightness, in a compelling account of the Fifth Sonata, the piano sister of the ''Poem of Ecstasy.'' Genadi Zagor brought a useful, broad strength to the Sixth Sonata; Edisher Savitski offered an appropriately more immediate immensity and force in the Seventh Sonata, the "White Mass."
Most exciting were the last two sonatas. The Ninth, the ''Black Mass,'' might have been the ideal music for Halloween, but George Vatchnadze made it much more an exercise in poetry than in demonism -- poetry made by a subtle and precise handling of color and rhythmic shape. Sometimes the harmonies seemed to be melting under his fingers; sometimes they were clear and cool. Then Maxim Mogilevsky's performance of the 10th Sonata was pure ravishment, his fingers executing butterfly dances on the keys, as if he were making love to the instrument, and indeed to his audience. This was the point to which the whole program had been leading, at which auditory pleasure became almost erotic.
But there was more. For a grand finale, Mr. Toradze came onto the platform to join two of his colleagues, Mr. Mogilevsky and Ms. Smolina, in a three-piano arrangement of ''Prometheus'' and to demonstrate qualities of power and convulsive attack that were inimitable.