Scriabin, Rachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov,Scriabin
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Scriabin, Rachmaninov:
WORKS: Symphony No. 1, Six Choruses, Op. 15
PERFORMER: Larissa Kostyuk (mezzo-soprano), Oleg Dolgov (tenor), Tigran Alikhanov (piano); Russian State Symphonic Cappella, Russian State SO/Valery Polyansky


Scriabin’s fifty-minute First Symphony in six movements was his first major work not written for piano. It is a diffuse work with some inspired episodes but, as David Brown has tactfully written, ‘the tightly disciplined thought required by the symphony found him wanting [and] beside Rachmaninov and Glazunov he seems inept’. Like its successor composed in the following year it needs a conductor with a very firm grip on its generally rhapsodic discourse. Valery Polyansky proves a generally sympathetic guide though Riccardo Muti exercises an even stronger hold over its architecture. All the same this account is very persuasive, the soloists in the last movement eminently acceptable, and the sound is warm and well defined; recommended albeit not in preference to Muti.


The Rachmaninov choruses for children’s or women’s voices come from the period just before the disastrous premiere of the First Symphony, when he was in his early twenties and teaching at the Mariinsky Ladies School. And they are as appealing as they are demanding; the most haunting being the Lemontov setting ‘The pine tree’ and ‘Dreaming waves’, both of which cast a distinct spell. A small point since Chandos claims a premier recording: there have been earlier ones by Andrey Zaboronok and the Bolshoi Theatre Children’s Choir (Chant du Monde) and the USSR Radio Chorus with Svetlanov at the piano (Melodiya). But this is hardly an issue of importance and collectors attracted by the coupling need not hesitate. Robert Layton