Alex Serrano | Perrysburg, Ohio United States | 04/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michale Ponti may well have recorded too much music in his career - the romantic piano concertos series, piano works of tchaikovsky, moszkowski, brahms, liszt - and also a series of live recitals. But this Scriabin set (and this review also accounts for the companion sonatas discs) may well be one of his most important contributions in regards to recordings. For once, we get a complete cycle of Scriabin's piano works played by a pianist who has the necessary technique and also at an unbeatable budget price - about US$ 25 for the 7 discs!
But not everything seems to work out here. The sound is very much substandard with predominance to the upper registers producing results that become strident at times - the recordings from the early 70's call for urgent remastering. And in regards to Ponti's intepretations, you do not get the feeling that he has all the music under his skin - a lot of extrardinary sight-reading seems to be going on and some inaccuracies are sadly exposed.
Yet, Ponti manages to create an improvisatory style that is very much in tune with the composer's style - and at his best, Scriabin's experimental nature finds a worthy medium in these recordings. Also, he commands all the bravura and cantabile effects of this music seemingly at will.
All in all, we must be happy this project has been released on cd (despite its flaws). You will find better interpretations of many of these works by ogdon, hamelin, horowitz, richter, etc - but as a group and an addition to any collector's library this is a great set."
Let's have Truth in Advertising
Matthew N. Montag | 07/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A fine, inexpensive 5-CD set--but it's NOT the complete non-sonata piano works. For the 3 Etudes op. 65, 2 Poems op. 71, poem Vers la Flamme op. 72, 2 Dances op. 73, and 5 Preludes op. 74, you need the accompanying 2-CD set SCRIABIN: COMPLETE SONATAS, which consists of the 10 numbered piano sonatas, 2 posthumous piano sonatas, and opp. 65 and 71-4."
J. Huang | Chicago, IL United States | 08/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unfortunately, this cycle of Scriabin's complete piano music will be panned by many people solely on the basis of its barbaric piano sound. In my opinion, however, the piano Ponti uses on these recordings - whataver it is and whichever landfill he dug it out of - is one of the series' greatest merits. Finally there is a pianist willing to approach Scriabin's music outside of the Chopin box. The sound is rather like one of John Cage's "prepared pianos," except that it is being used here in the service of legitamate music. It sounds like it is constantly being pushed beyond its physical limitations, producing a savage, hellfire-and-brimstone result. Another, obviously more conventional-thinking reviewer, had reservations about the scrapy, abrasive high end of this piano; when I first put the CD on and heard this, I felt like I finally understood what Scriabin was all about: madness, and lots and lots of fire.There is much to recommend this set. It is cheap. It is (I believe) the only complete set of Scriabin's solo piano music (I refer to this five-CD set and its companion two-CD set of the sonatas). The two-CD set includes the posthumously published Sonata in Eb minor, which, while still accepting of such prelapsarian concepts as tonality, still manages to put a smile on my face. Ponti's playing is better than others have made it out to be: you just have to get past your prejudices about what piano music should sound like to hear it. This is just one of those recordings that makes its own rules and wins. Well worth the money."
Advice for Scriabin collectors
Dace Gisclard | Houston, TX | 08/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ponti's Scriabin IS complete. In fact, it's THE most complete set of Scriabin's piano music ever issued! True, VOX's labeling is confusing-as another reviewer stated, this set and Ponti's set of the sonatas should really be labeled "Vol.I and Vol.II." I don't blame other customers for being confused!
Ponti is a great Scriabin player, period. Unfortunately, his recording of the sonatas is one of the great tragedies of recorded music. The sound accorded his sonatas is virtually unlistenable-fryingly over bright treble and boomy bass--it sounds like it was recorded by someone used to recording rock. The recording engineer should be taken out and shot!
It's a tragedy, because the playing is marvellous. The other pieces in that set and the present set are much more listentably recorded. The sound of the present set is better, and not nearly so bad as some reviewers would have one believe. With some fiddling at the tone controls, it can be rendered quite listenable. I found that adjusting the tone controls to treble at 9:00 and bass at 10:00 renders everything except the sonatas much easier to take.
Unfortunately, if one wants Ponti's Scriabin complete (even if one chooses to supplement his sonatas with something in better sound) one has to buy both this set and his set of the "Complete Piano Music" on five CD's. That's actually not so bad--the sets are cheap enough.
However, if merely getting the complete Scriabin is your goal, there are alternatives.
1. There's a really excellent 8-disc set of all Scriabin works with opus numbers available on Capriccio played by Maria Lettberg. This is really first-rate, and can form the basis of your Scriabin collection.
2. Lettberg doesn't play the early sonatas in E-flat minor and G-sharp minor (not to be confused with No.2). One can get these either by Ponti (in his sonata set) or Roberto Szidon (in HIS set of the sonatas, with better sound). Again, both are fairly cheap.
3. Two possibilities here: Lettberg also doesn't play a great deal of posthumously-published early Scriabin. Most of this is available on Coombs's CD of "The Early Scriabin," although he doesn't play the early "Albumleaves" in F-sharp and A-flat and the Fantasy for Two Pianos. All of the pieces Coombs plays plus everything he doesn't are in Ponti's set called "Complete Piano Music". The sound of this set can be rendered fairly listenable with the tone controls.
To sum up: Get Lettberg's set. Add the two early sonatas she doesn't play either from Ponti or Szidon (better sound than Ponti). Add the early pieces from Ponti (which will make your collection absolutely complete) or just Coombs's (better sound, but incomplete). And oh, yes, you might want another set of the sonatas--these pieces are so multi-faceted that you might want more than one interpretation-my personal favorite is Hamelin.
RE the Sonata in E-flat minor: This work has come down to us unfinished. If you're interested, see my comment on Glemser's and Ponti's different solutions attached to "SRS"'s review on the page devoted to Ponti's sonatas.