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<<  -- 2 --  John Bell Young    SCRIABIN ON DISC




Scriabin composed only a handful of works for orchestra, products of his conservatory days and early career: There are five symphonies, including the one movement Poem of Ecstasy (Op 54, 1905-1908) and Prometheus, the Poem of Fire (Op 54, 1910); a Symphonic Poem (1896-1897); Réverie (Op 24, 1898); and an Andante for Strings (1899).

Complete sets. Eliahu Inbal's recordings are respectable enough, and are impressive for their polished phrasing and suave legato; the sound is dark and lush (Philips). However, Inbal lacks contrast and drama. He has a fondness for stomping on every downbeat, and his tempos have a tendency to lumber along pedantically. Svetlanov is far more affecting and idiomatic (Russian Disc 11056-8, 3CD). He understood the underlying turbulence that informs Scriabin's music and seamlessly navigates every transition.

Muti's principal asset is the Philadelphia Orchestra's laser-like ensemble, but he is no Scriabinist; his thudding, stodgy readings fail to capture anything of the music's Slavic ethos or subtle flexibility (EMI). Nicoloai Golovanov's accounts are taut and idiomatic but impassioned (Arlechinno). Jarvi is remarkable and luxurious (Chandos 241-5; 2CD). (This set omits the first symphony and Prometheus, but throws in the tone poem Réverie as a bonus). Igor Golovschin has to date recorded 1 thorough 4, along with Réverie and the two Op 32 Poèmes for piano transcribed for orchestra (Naxos 553580, 3CD). These are fine realizations, if more understated than those of his colleagues. Whether the overall homogeneity of the Moscow Symphony's lovely sound is due to distantly placed mikes or Golovschin's sensibility is anyone's guess. Even so, on the whole these make the best and most reasonably priced introduction to Scriabin's orchestral music.



1 (Op 26). Though this sprawling six-movement piece, with its somewhat clichéed finale (a canonically composed ode to art that throws in a tenor, a mezzo soprano and a chorus in a none too subtle nod to Beethoven's 9th) is often pooh-poohed as structurally distended and even unsound, it deserves more credit. Scriabin himself admitted that he was still technically 'out of control' in this work, but it shows his youthful inspiration and gifts for effusive melodic invention. Golovschin's stirring but elegant account on has much to recommend it. Under his direction, the evocation of dawn in the introductory Lento is particularly affecting and gently melancholy, just as it should be.

2 (Op 29) Its five movements are almost as long as 1, clocking in on the average at about 50 minutes. Composed in 1901, it earned Scriabin a few prominent enemies, including Liadov and Arensky who, jealous of his increasing popularity and success, dismissed it as 'decadent' and 'cacophonous rot'. It is in fact an ambitious, powerful work, a rich matrix of interwoven polyphony that moves in and out of itself while giving voice to innumerable contrasts and moods. Golovschin, in his imperturbable and as usual understated performance, is more restrained than Svetlanov, and he prefers a more relaxed pace. Svetlanov's taut, impassioned and lyrical account, on the other hand, cracks the whip with compelling élan. The recorded sound on the Naxos discs, while clean and rich, is a bit on the distant side, and lacks the rich visceral presence of the Svetlanov set.(which, however, compromises the lower registers in a kind of boomy woof).

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Copyright © 27 December 2001 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA




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