Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Telegraph's Best Classical Albums of 2015: Scriabin Symphony No.1

"It is an outstanding tribute to Skryabin in his centenary year."


We are thrilled to share with you that our release of "Scriabin Symphony No.1 and the Poem of Ecstasy" with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra was chosen to be one of the "Best Classical Music Albums of 2015" by the Telegraph! This release unveiled a new and rejuvenated interpretation of the "Poem of Ecstasy", paired with Scriabin's Symphony no.1 that demonstrated his unconventional music ideology. 


Russian conductor Mikhail Pletnev brings out the voluptuousness and volatility of this dark composer, says Geoffrey Norris.

Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra released a CD of Skryabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy” on Deutsche Grammophon back in 1999, when it was coupled with the “Divine Poem”. That disc is still available, but this new, refreshed interpretation of the “Poem of Ecstasy” is interestingly coupled with the First Symphony, completed in 1900 before Skriabin’s hyper-egocentricity and exotic philosophising began to manifest themselves in his music. The passing of the years brought with it a concentration and compression of his musical argument: whereas the First Symphony has six movements spread over a broad canvas of an hour or so, the “Poem of Ecstasy” (strictly speaking his Fourth Symphony) is in a single movement of 20 minutes.

In the “Poem of Ecstasy” Skriabin has not yet entered the dark world of sulphureous swirls that characterise his last completed orchestral work, “Prometheus: A Poem of Fire”, but the music nevertheless possesses a voluptuousness and volatility that Pletnev conjures up here in a performance of truly ecstatic headiness. Skryabin’s directions in the score give clues as to its temperament: “almost in delirium”, “very perfumed”, “with ever increasing intoxication”, “with noble and joyful emotion”. These tags are in addition to the conventional ones governing the ebb and flow of speed and dynamics, and it is a testament to Pletnev’s understanding of and thorough immersion in the manner of Skriabin’s musical thinking that this performance is both fluid and taut, the music’s colours gleaming and shimmering and with the prominent trumpet solos (Vladislav Lavrik) stirringly aspirational without a hint of the wide, wobbly vibrato that used to mark out old-style Russian performances.


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Whereas the harmonic scheme of the “Poem of Ecstasy” is one of constant flux, the First Symphony, basically in E major, still has key signatures for each of the movements. However, in musical phrasing, orchestration and in all manner of melodic and harmonic detail it is a work that clearly points to the Skriabin of the future. Pletnev recognises this factor here in his malleable control of tempo: the music flows and surges with spontaneity and with clear definition of climax and repose. The choral finale fields the first-rate Chamber Choir of the Moscow Conservatoire together with fine soloists in the soprano Svetlana Shilova and tenor Mikhail Gubsky, crowning an outstanding tribute to Skriabin in his centenary year.

Geoffrey Norris