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Brent Auerbach
American Record Guide, November 2011

It is well worth the cost…expect that you won’t hear anyone playing this music more energetically and powerfully than [Raekallio] does.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online

James Inverne
Gramophone, October 2011

As Bryce Morrison points out, there is abundant and big-name competition in these works. But how wonderful to welcome back these fine performances from Helsinki-born pianist Matti Raekallio. He teaches at Juilliard these days, but his students could do worse than avidly study this reissue from Ondine.

It would be wrong to say that he makes light of Prokofiev’s technical demands. Rather, he relishes them, finding the poetry through them, attacking them with determination and, when required, a light touch.

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, October 2011

Virtuosity and resolve in a reissued cycle of Prokofiev’s nine piano sonatas

This four-CD set of Prokofiev’s nine piano sonatas also includes several fist-shaking gestures for his early anti-Romanticism, complemented by other more amiable offerings. Formidably played and well recorded, it will alert even the most seasoned listener to the conflicting elements of Prokofiev’s always “difficult”, prickly and volatile nature. The First Sonata’s Romantic rhetoric may well have made the composer blush as he moved on in his Second Sonata to find his truest voice, his wintry lyricism, scrubbing-brush bravura and, in the finale, his Tom and Jerry cartoon caperings. Again, the journey from such aplomb to the “War” Sonatas (Nos 6, 7 and 8; for Richter, always among their most celebrated interpreters, music representing “a world without reason or equilibrium”) is immense.

Finnish pianist Matti Raekallio, who I first heard in America many years ago, plays with a shot-from-guns virtuosity that carries all before it. Hear him in the Fourth Sonata’s central Andante assai, music where only a small, barely visible flower grows, or in his blistering attack on the finales of the Seventh and Eighth Sonatas, and you will be more than suitably awed and chilled. His steely resolve softens in Romeo and Juliet and Tales of an Old Grandmother, but returns with a vengeance in the Toccata and early Etudes.

True, there is intense recorded competition for most of these works—for example, Argerich in the Toccata (DG) and Richter heard live in Sonatas Nos 2 and 8, taken from his first 1961 Festival Hall recital (BBC Legends, 3/09)—to take two key examples, but Matti Raekallio’s album still makes for compulsive listening, achieving a keen sense of “works of art that are full of glittering razor-blades” (Picasso).

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