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Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy; Prometheus etc

Yevgeny Sudbin (piano); Singapore Youth Choir and Chorus; Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Prometheus; The Poem of Ecstasy; Piano Sonata No. 5
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano); Singapore Youth Choir and Chorus; Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
BIS BIS-2362  (CD/SACD)  56:08 mins

The Russian mystic’s most layered, outlandish scores need state-of-the-art sound. Trust BIS to provide it from producer Robert Suff and sound engineer Fabian Frank, working in Singapore’s Esplanade Concert Hall. The layering keeps the enigmas intact, not overdoing the trumpet or trombone solos – sounding from their places within the natural orchestral perspective – and allowing horns, muted or otherwise, to lour through the mists. Woodwind solos gleam and glitter; all frequencies are allowed to tell naturally. None of this is to underestimate the fluent work of Lan Shui, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s music director from 1997 to 2019 (he’s now its conductor laureate); his is certainly the onward engagement, and possibly the texturing too.

The album includes Yevgeny Sudbin’s 2006 recording of the winged Fifth Piano Sonata, composed in six days after The Poem of Ecstasy. A pity he wasn’t given the opportunity to revisit the piece for this recording; the distant voices and visionary glimmers are there, but not quite the most brilliant of lights as Scriabin’s mythological adventurer heads towards the sun. Sudbin is very much part of the divine or infernal machine in Prometheus, the flashes and flights bringing much-needed focus before the bringer of fire finally rouses himself and leads in the wordless choir – an especially thrilling dimension given the atmospheric recording. If any label might solve the problem of one day giving us simultaneous colours to match the keys as we listen, BIS would be the one. Meanwhile, this stimulates fresh excitement in one of the composing world’s true originals.

David Nice