Michael Ponti | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Michael Ponti

Scriabin: Complete Piano Music
Vox Classical

If you've been hoarding away a few bucks for that extra special classical music bargain, then now's the time to give in to the temptations of capitalism. Michael Ponti's reissued complete survey of the piano music of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin is both a provocative musical investment and a best buy: This set really has something for everyone. Music fans with even the most comprehensive of home CD libraries will be pleased because Ponti's set is perhaps the only sustained look at this unique and fascinating composer's keyboard output. Neophytes, on the other hand, will find his interpretations red-blooded and compelling entryways into unexplored territory. Moreover, at roughly a five spot for each of seven discs, you really can't go wrong.


Though less well known than some of the luminaries usually associated with this music (i.e., Horowitz, Richter, Sofronitsky, Ashkenazy, Hamlin), Ponti proves himself with finger-bending virtuosity and romantic fire -- the perfect approach for Scriabin's early music. However, as the works get more experimental and atonal, his brisk renditions lose a sense of ethereal space around the notes while gaining a clear link to the early romantic music that may help some new listeners digest the later works.


This may be of special importance because of the Russian's incredible cumulative achievement. While many listeners are scared of atonal (read: dissonant) music, they most associate it with the works of the Third Viennese School. However, while Schoenberg and his disciples approached this ideal through Brahms, Scriabin reached for a similar goal through Chopin. The result is more sensual and unabashedly emotional. This is music that's not afraid to thrash and scream like a Byronic hero at the sight of his lost love - as opposed to the tight-lipped control of a Schoenberg.


So smash open your piggy bank. Wonders await!

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