Scriabin: Symphony No. 1; Poèmes, Op. 32/1 & 2; Rêverie

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COMPOSERS: Scriabin
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Poèmes, Op. 32/1 & 2; Rêverie
PERFORMER: Lyudmila Ivanova (mezzo-soprano), Mikhail Agafonov (tenor); Moscow Capella, Moscow SO/Igor Golovschin
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553580
Scriabin’s First Symphony, although a long way musically from the mystical world of his late works (yet only 10-15 years away in reality), is a thoroughly characteristic work in the best tradition of opulent, Romantic Russian symphonies, with the added element of a typically Scriabinesque juxtaposition of torpor and ecstasy. Its six moments culminate in a choral finale, with two soloists joining in to extol the glory of art and music.

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The Moscow SO, founded in 1989, is among the post-USSR generation of Russian orchestras that has already lost its characteristic weedy woodwind and strangulated brass tone of old to a pan-global orchestral conformity – but the singers in the Symphony’s finale sound authentically Russian enough.

Still, with the Kondrashin-trained Igor Golovschin in charge, this fine new recording – the first of what I hope will be a complete cycle – provides a serious challenge both to older Soviet-era accounts and more modern Western competition from Muti (Philadelphia, currently only available in a three-disc set) and Ashkenazy (Berlin).

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The makeweights – following the Symphony after far too short a pause – comprise the familiar Rêverie and somewhat inauthentic orchestrations of Scriabin’s two Poèmes for piano, together revealing moments of scrappy, sometimes painfully out-of-tune playing. The sound throughout is a little flat for such richly textured music. Matthew Rye