Good things are worth waiting for. Volume III of the Bärenreiter edition of Scriabin’s sonatas, containing the sonatas numbered six, seven and eight, is now available. The outstanding editor, Christoph Flamm, wisely waited for manuscript sources for the Seventh to emerge, and the publisher’s preparation of the edition was further delayed by the pandemic.
Prof. Flamm’s reputation as a scholar is unrivalled, as well as his untiring capacity for taking pains. The clarity and correctness of the text are unimpeachable (to pick out one detail, the eloquent marking Prophétique is restored to the opening fanfares of the Seventh sonata.)
For anybody experienced enough to tackle these sonatas, the absence of fingering (a feature of Bärenreiter house style) is a bonus. The plentiful front-matter, quite separate from the texts, constitutes a complete education as to Scriabin’s harmonic style, the structure of these sonatas, their origin and source history, and many other background matters. All of these are scrupulously annotated, and any student who lives, as I have, in bibliographies will be inspired by Prof. Flamm’s wide background of documentation to their own programme of further reading.
Now that the whole edition is before us, we can assess its usefulness. Though it runs to four volumes, it is a genuinely ‘complete’ edition of the sonatas, including the 1886 Sonata-Fantaisie and the 1889 E flat minor sonata. Each volume is equally fully annotated. Study of this edition is an indispensable guide to a fuller understanding of Scriabin as a human being and thinker, as well as an uniquely innovative and rich composer for the piano.
It should be mentioned also that an excellent edition of the ten sonatas by Pavel Shatsky has appeared as volume II/10 of the Alexander Scriabin Collected Works published in Russia by Muzyka and Jurgenson. The availability in UK of these volumes tends to be patchy, and with the presently unfolding tragedy in Ukraine availability will almost certainly decline. For those who wish to acquire the existing nine volumes of this memorial edition, useful sources are ruslania.com and Abebooks.
Simon Nicholls March 2022.