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Scriabin: Symphony No. 2; Poem Of Ecstasy, "Symphony No. 4"

Scriabin: Symphony No. 2; Poem Of Ecstasy, "Symphony No. 4"

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Scriabin composed most of his single-movement fourth symphony The Poem of Ecstasy between 1905 and 1908 in Italy and France. He originally intended it to be called Poème orgiaque (‘Orgiastic Poem’) with its unprecedented raw sensuality and overpowering aesthetic, taking chromaticism beyond even Wagnerian voluptuousness. His earlier Symphony No. 2 in C minor adopts César Franck’s cyclical ideas to which Scriabin layered sweeping climaxes, majestic intensity and rich orchestral colour that enliven its five movements with ceaseless invention.

REVIEW:

The Poem of Ecstasy is an extremely effective piece. JoAnn Falletta’s sleek, graceful performance, at 19 minutes, is on the swift side of things, and well balanced for transparency and texture. The Buffalo Philharmonic paints in lovely light colors, and nothing drips. The electronic organ used by the orchestra supplies a fine weight for the conclusion of the piece. Falletta delivers the last apocalyptic chord after a slight pause, all the more effective given the fact that this has been a swift performance unencumbered by needless rubato. The Poem of Ecstasy emerges gleaming and appealing.

Falletta’s traversal of the Second Symphony is, if anything, even better, and almost relentless. This reading is ablaze with forward motion, bringing the piece home in 40 minutes. Scriabin has not provided many moments for the music to catch its breath, so it turns out that an effective counter to this is to speed one’s way through the score and gradually ratchet up the tension.

Falletta does not linger excessively over the slow movement. This is where conductors can get into trouble dwelling on atmosphere. In the propulsive last third of the symphony, Scriabin seems to tighten his compositional approach, as if aware of this pitfall, and the Buffalo Philharmonic is with him all the way, brass and percussion snarling through the whiplash winds of the Tempestuoso and ultimately hitting paydirt with the memorable march that brings the symphony to its powerful and optimistic conclusion. 

The Naxos engineers are to be congratulated throughout. The recorded sound is utterly natural and true to the hall. Falletta deserves kudos for daring to be brisk and for knowing how to build satisfying climaxes. This is the best version of the Second Symphony I have heard.

-- Fanfare (Steven Kruger)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Naxos Regular CD
    • UPC/Barcode: 747313413973
    • Item Number: 8574139