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Metner and Scriabin

Metner Piano Works Severin von Eckardstein MDG 604 1465-2

Scriabin The Solo Piano Works Maria Lettberg Capriccio 49586 (8 CDs + a bonus DVD; recorded 2004-2007)

Two highly desirable recordings of romantic Russian piano music by gifted young pianists .

Severin von Eckardstein is a multi-prizewinner (not least as winner of the Brussels Q E Competition) and his notes for this well documented compilation show him to be also an academic whose carefully researched notes throw interesting new light (as well as correct spellings) on the individuality of his composer, who has been until recently overshadowed by Skryabin and Rakhmaninov. The mixed programme runs well, and culminates with the Night Winds sonata op 25/2.

Though 'not necessarily agreeable at first hearing', Eckardstein has come to regard it as one of the most important of the century's piano sonatas, going 'a step further' than his more successful colleague and friend Rakhmaninov.

A fine CD, definitely one to consider alongside Hamelin's of the complete Me(d)tner sonatas and Milne in the complete Skazi, both reviewed by MP.

Maria Lettberg
's completion this year of her nine discs covering all Scriabin's piano works with opus numbers is a landmark in recorded history.

She is a phenomenon, unusual amongst today's musicians in having avoided competitions completely; and in the filmed interview on the bonus DVD included she tells of her scepticism of intégrales. But Scriabin just took her over for some seven years, so I've learnt.

The bonus disc is invaluable for putting you close to the personality and thinking of this exceptional young woman; her intelligence and fluency enhance the whole; the questioner is not seen or heard in the film. The other part of it allows you to see her, looking good playing her piano in excerpts from the totality, and in the printed notes she shares her thoughts about the compositions.

I was less enamoured of of Andrea Schmidt's colourful paintings and animations which swirl around the brown Bösendorfer (its name blatantly advertised) and add little meaningful to the music, but I have to say that they are images which the composer would probably have liked...

Others, no doubt, will undertake comparative reviews which I shall read with interest. Meanwhile, a most hearty welcome for this inexpensive boxed set.

Peter Grahame Woolf