Scriabin: Symphony No. 1; Prometheus (The Poem of Fire)

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WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Prometheus (The Poem of Fire)
PERFORMER: Brigitte Balleys (m-sop), Sergei Larin (tenor), Peter Jablonski (piano)Berlin Radio Choir, Deutsches SO, Berlin/Vladimir Ashkenazy
The First is my favourite Scriabin symphony. Its delicate opening bridges the gap between the dawn of Götterdämmerung and the teething Debussy of Printemps – in marked contrast to the sumptuous hyperinflation of Prometheus or the sensual wallowing of The Divine Poem (Symphony No. 3, previously recorded by Ashkenazy on Decca).


Yet it is Prometheus I would recommend here: the Berlin players come extraordinarily alive – with agglutinated, stabbing brass and splendid, indulgent surges from the strings. Scrumptious: brazenly full-blooded, and rightly so.


It is perhaps best to view the symphony as the filler. The Decca sound is not so mellow as for Prometheus. Ashkenazy goes for big sound without quite resolving all the link passages, and I’m not sure all the strings have done equal homework. A catalogue of grunts from the conductor also detracts from the vocal soloists. But it’s a magnificent work, well worth absorbing, with clarinet, flute and brass soloists all well managed, and a charming, balletic Scherzo. Its true stars here are the women of the Berlin Radio Choir, resplendent in the ecstatic finale. I still hanker after my (subtler) Svetlanov on dusty Melodiya; but no bad effort here, for all the singalong and slightly overblown tuttis.