This Week in Classical Music: January 3, 2022. Welcome to 2022. We hope, as we assume do all our listeners, that 2022 turns out to be better, music-wise, than 2021. Even though the year hasn’t started outnvery promising, with the omicron variant spreading at an unusual rate, we think this might be the last gasp of the pandemic, finally creating the elusive heard immunity. We need all music venues to open, we need people come to the regular, not abridged concerts, we need to get rid of masks in concert halls, to able to travel, to provide education, musical and otherwise, in person – in other words, we need normalcy. If 2022 gets us there, it will be a great year.
Now, to the first week of 2022. We have one important anniversary: Alexander Scriabin was born on January 6th of 1872, 150 years ago. And then we have a very special pianistic date, January 5th, the birthday of not one but three exceptional pianists, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in 1920, Alfred Brendel in 1931, and Maurizio Pollini in 1942. Pollini and Brendel had a very broad repertoire, Michelangeli – a more focused one, but none of them were big on Scriabin. So instead of playing his work by one of our birthday celebrants we present Scriabin’s Piano Sonata no 7 in an interpretation by Arcadi Volodos (here). The sonata was composed in 1911, close to the end of Scriabin’s short life (he died in 1915, aged 43, of blood poisoning from a carbuncle on his upper lip). It has a subtitle, White Mass, given by the composer himself. The sonata is highly chromatic, almost atonal. Who knows where this development would’ve lead the composer if Scriabin had lived another 20–30 years. As for the performer, Arcadi Volodos, he is a Russian-born pianist living in Spain. His phenomenal technique is quite obvious in this recording. It would be very interesting to hear him live, in concert, but he performs almost exclusively in Europe and plays only 3-4 concerts a month. Hopefully he’ll make it to the US soon.
We should note that Pollini has a special upcoming birthday – he’ll turn 80. He still performs, playing large programs. For example, on February 7th he’ll give a recital at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, playing Beethoven’s sonata no. 28, op.101, Robert Schumann’s Fantasie in C Major, and four pieces by Chopin: Mazurka op. 56, Barcarolle op. 60, Ballade no. 4 and Scherzo no. 1. Here’s Pollini’s brilliant interpretation of Chopin’s Scherzo no. 1; this recording was made in 1991. Congratulations, Maestro!