Alexander SCRIABIN (1871-1915)
The Poem of Ecstasy (1907-08) [19.16]
Fikret Dzhamil AMIROV (b. 1922)
Azerbaijan Mugam (‘Kyurdi Ovsgari’) (1948) [13.40]
Houston Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. Houston, Texas, March 1959
EVEREST SDBR3032 [32.56]

The mix of Scriabin’s super-rich over-indulgence and Stokowski’s brilliance would seem to presage a sure-fire album. In fact, the colouring of the supporting Amirov programme — a composer of whom I had never heard before — impressed me more.
First a little about this not over-generous Everest reissue. Everest Recordings were made using then state of the art Ampex recording equipment and the master tapes were used in the digital transfers for these new CD reissues. The sound quality is amazing: such silken smoothness on the strings and such brio and clarity from the brass.
Scriabin was an oddity: an eccentric mystic with some far-out ideas about living and philosophy. He was not quite either Pantheist or Theosophist but held a somewhat personal creed combining elements of the two. His indulgent Poem of Ecstasy is a fanciful, hedonistic concoction in three parts: 1) ‘His soul in the orgy of love’; 2) ‘The realisation of a fantastical dream’ and 3) ‘The glory of his own art’. The Poem celebrates the ecstasy of achieving success in life. The principal theme of the main section is associated with “the soaring flight of the spirit”, a second theme, with solo violin for “Human love” and the trumpet figure dominating the work with “the Will to rise up”. The work, as can be imagined, passes through many moods with Stokowski not holding back through any of them. There is tempestuous and passionate music through life’s stresses with snarling and grating brass and conversely sweet almost perfumed music for romance and passion. The solo violin and the sort-of glissandi strings are of the type one used to associate with old ‘Hollywood weepies’. It’s all wrapped up by a tremendous crescendo.
The Amirov work is a delight. The catchy music is strongly melodic and rhythmic. It reflects the folk music and dance traditions of Azerbaijan. There is a mix of Turkish, Armenian and Persian cultures. The sound-world is Middle Eastern, Arabic and the music might conjure up visions of the Thousand and One Nights. Then quite suddenly it changes into syncopation and one is struck by the similarity to George Gershwin in Rhapsody in Blue mode. By turns the music is tender, joyous and mysterious as drums pound across the sound-stage.
Short measure again from Everest; but very much worth the investment, especially the Amirov.
Ian Lace

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