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Bryce Marrison
Gramophone, August 2000

"I first heard Evgeny Zarafiants as a jury member of the 1993 Ivo Pogorelich Competition in Los Angeles, where he was awarded joint-second prize. Those of us who were present at that strange and unforgettable occasion have remained haunted over the intervening yeas by his exceptional artistry. So how gratifying to find that this Naxos album, volume 1 of what promises to be a complete cycle of the Scriabin Preludes, not only confirms that first and indelible impression, but takes us beyond into a world of the most searching and impeccable pianism and musicianship. Indeed, such a flawless and personal distillation of Scriabin's style and idiom can make the wintry blast of, say, Andrei Gavrilov or even-dare I say it- the palpitating sense of neurosis of Horowitz in this composer, seem superficial by comparison.

"Zarafiants' tendency to opt for tempi slower than marked allows him ample time to characterise Scriabin's already obsessive and opalescent dreamworld, his shifting colors and perspectives, and yet nothing sounds directionless or lethargic. Such exploratoy and lucid playing can make the singling out of individual performances invidious, yet it is impossible not to mention the glorious sense of groundswell in Op 11 No 7, the relish of Scriabin's serenade-like memory of Chopin's Etude Op 10 No 11 in Op 16 No 3, or the way the wild virtuosity of Op 17 No 5 is so jubiliantly encompassed. Zarafiants may be a born poet of he keyboard, but he is also wide-ranging, of true Russian vintage, with a sonority as powerful as it is refined, of 'sweet' rather than deafening thunder.

"If I add that the Naxos Brandon Hill recordings are outstanding and that David Doughty's accompanying essay, with its reference to Scriabin's later 'shimmering and exotic dissolution of tonality' is fascinating, you will realise that everything about this disc is beyond simple praise."

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