In this first volume of Alexander Scriabin's symphonies on the LSO Live label, Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra begin in media res with the Symphony No. 3, "Le Divin Poème," and the Le Poème de l'extase, which is unofficially counted as the Symphony No. 4. These works date from Scriabin's middle period (ca. 1902-1908), which marks a transition from his youthful Romantic phase to his final visionary works. The Symphony No. 3 reflects a lingering attachment to the symphonic conventions which influenced Scriabin's first two symphonies, particularly in its three-movement structure and relatively clear tonal scheme, though it already hints at the organic development and greater harmonic complexity of the single-movement Le Poème de l'extase, which strains the boundaries of form and key. These effusive works demand a calculated control that may seem at odds with their volatile and languorous expressions, though Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra deliver the music with rhythmic precision and focused tone colors to bring across Scriabin's kaleidoscopic soundworld with brilliance.
This album is either the latest example of a classical label prostituting itself in search of a larger audience, or a legitimate attempt at crossover within an orchestral pops vein, given added appeal through the presence of the Roger Dean cover graphics and the near-suppression of the Telarc identification. The "classics" done up in 60-piece orchestral majesty include "Born to Run," "Tears of a Clown," "Superstition," "Hey Joe," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "God Only Knows," and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (which hardly belongs here, as the product of Scottish songwriter Ewan MacColl)…
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. From the outset, the LSO was organised on co-operative lines, with all players sharing the profits at the end of each season. This practice continued for the orchestra's first four decades.
As a composer of orchestral music, Alexander Scriabin is best known for his last two idiosyncratic symphonies, the Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, which are essentially symphonic poems, not symphonies in the conventional sense. The Symphony No. 1 (1900) and the Symphony No. 2 (1901), however, are more recognizable as symphonies in their multiple-movement forms, and their durations are comparable to the expansive symphonies of Scriabin's contemporary, Gustav Mahler. They also share the post-Romantic tendency toward Wagnerian harmonies, rhapsodic melodies, and lush orchestration, which, in Scriabin's case, were developed to express heightened emotional states and mystical transcendence. This 2016 double SACD by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra presents each of the symphonies on its own disc, and the high-quality multichannel sound is ideal for bringing across the subtle nuances of tone color and the shifting of dynamics that are characteristic of his style.]