Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
The Symphonies
CD 1 [69:04]
Symphony No. 1 in E major op. 26 (1899-1900) [48:08]
Prometheus - The Poem of Fire op. 60 (1909-10) [20:11]
CD 2 [76:37]
Symphony No. 2 in C minor op. 29 (1901) [46:55]
Rêverie op. 24 (1898) [3:55]
Le Poème de l'Extase op. 54 (1907) [24:41]
CD 3 [77:15]
Piano Concerto in F sharp minor op. 20 (1897) [27:15]
Symphony No. 3 in C minor The Divine Poem op. 43 (1902-04) [49:19]
Inger Blom (mezzo) (1); Lars Magnusson (tenor) (1); Stockholm Philharmonic Choir/Stefan Parkman (1, Prometheus); Love Derwinger (piano) (Prometheus); Roland Pöntinen (piano) (concerto)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
rec. Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset), Sweden, August 1989 (3); May 1990 (Concerto, Reverie); June 1991 (1, 2, Prometheus, Ecstasy). DDD
Notes in English. Translations to German and French. Text of finale in Russian Cyrillic and translation into English.
3 CDs for the price of 2
BIS-CD-1669/70 [3 CDs: 69:04 + 76:37 + 77:15]


The market for boxed sets of discs previously available separately at premium price continues to flourish. Both Bis and CPO are active in these waters. I might have added Chandos but they have tended to issue and keep many of their boxes at full price for long periods before dropping to medium although even they are beginning to relent. An example is the Tchaikovsky symphonies set by the Oslo Phil which for years could only be had at full price or close.

This Scriabin cycle entered an already active market. As a set it stacks up well alongside Muti on EMI and Brilliant, Ashkenazy on Decca and Inbal on Philips; the latter sadly not submitted for review. It's cleanly done, compact, maybe a little lacking in the symphonies and Poem of Ecstasy in heady exaltation but certainly atmospheric enough. The full mystical hum, fragrance and heady sizzle of the symphonies and poems can be derived from the Boheme recordings by Golovanov but the price you pay is primitive Soviet mono redeemed somewhat by good technical transfers by Boheme. Shame that they are no longer active.

Bis adds the inestimable bonus of one of the world's most endearing piano concertos - a love poem in elegance, romantic fervour and gallant endeavour. Often compared with the Chopin piano concertos the Scriabin concerto has much more going for it. The Chopin efforts are thin musical gruel by comparison. It is a romantic delight - as if Schumann had been transplanted with updated sensibilities to 1890s Moscow. Pöntinen phrases admirably - just listen to the way he paces and contours the big theme at 2;14 in the finale. Glitter in blizzards yes but underpinned with substance. The recording captures the tone of the piano spectacularly well from twinkling high notes to a chest-heavy bass. The only real idiosyncrasy is the undue emphasis placed on the woodwind.

The booklet notes are by Andrew Huth and read enthrallingly both in description of the music and in historical narrative.

Rob Barnett