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Alexandre SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Le Poème de l’Extase * (1906-07)
Symphony No. 3 in C minor ‘Le Divin Poème’ + (1903-04)
Orchestre de Paris/Daniel Barenboim
Recorded at the Salle Pleyel, Paris in October 1986 * and in November 1987 +
WARNER ELATUS 2564 60812-2 [72:06]

Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, a combination of symphony (constructed in a broad sonata form) and symphonic poem was premiered in New York. It was influenced by Wagner’s Tristan, and by his philosophical and religious views (Nietzsche and theosophy). Brass is prominent; in fact at more than one point I was struck as a result of Barenboim’s realisation by a pronounced similarity of Scriabin’s writing to that of Bernard Herrmann. This reissue of Barenboim’s fiery 1986 recording also has plenty of sensual languor. His reading is nicely transparent and clear; its innumerable climaxes well-paced and contoured. But the difficulty, to my mind, is the disconcerting trumpet solo that has too much of that vibrato quality, historically associated with French orchestras. Taken all round, there are attractive alternatives: Maazel on Decca 417 252-2 that also includes Scriabin’s Piano Concerto and Prometheus and Stokowski with the New York Philharmonic offers a tremendously energetic and luminous performance on BBCL 4018-2.

Scriabin’s extraordinary Symphony No. 3 (Le Divin Poème) dates from 1903-04 and again is influenced by his theosophical inclinations and by Wagner and Richard Strauss. It is cast in four movements: the first a short Lento introduction lasts just over a minute while the second marked Luttes (‘Struggles’) proceeds over 27 minutes. The third movement, marked Voluptés (‘Pleasure’) is followed by the finale, Jeux divin (‘Divine Games’). This is a huge edifice employing a huge orchestra. In Luttes, Barenboim splendidly contrasts Scriabin’s titanically explosive, often craggy climaxes (wonderfully strident brass – I have no reservations about vibrato in this performance) with femininely-tender, delicate and voluptuous music. Volupté begins in quiet ecstasy with woodwinds quietly meditating over passionately-rising strings. Barenboim is very poetic in this movement particularly in the passage where the beautifully eloquent woodwinds express their bird song against that of the solo violin. The finale Jeux divin begins lightly and more playfully before the music swells to powerfully climactic music of ecstatic vision.

Documentation is brief and just adequate.

Big, beefy voluptuous music. Barenboim’s Poème has atmosphere and excitement but the trumpet solo disappoints; his Le Divin Poem is powerful, ardent and delicate enough In a competitive field, and for this coupling, the Russian National Orchestra conducted by Pletnev on DG 459 681-2 would be my first choice.

Ian Lace

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