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.]
The Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, music director since 2003 of the Minnesota Orchestra, long ago proved himself a formidable interpreter of Nordic music in general and Sibelius in particular. This symphonic cycle – two highly praised discs are already out – is now complete, with this album of the pliant, classical Symphony No 3, the little known and underrated No 6 and the mysterious, enthralling single-movement No 7. The playing is polished and detailed, now springy and buoyant, now occluded and chilling. Tempi are slightly broad but convincingly so. From the plunging energy of the opening of the Third Symphony to the bleak, raw ending of the Seventh, this is a gripping listen.
British orchestras and their audiences have long held a special affinity for the orchestral works of Jean Sibelius, and the Hallé's venerable tradition of playing his music continues in this superb recording of the Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, the Symphony No. 7 in C major, and the symphonic poem En Saga. Mark Elder's straightforward interpretations are clear-headed and meticulous yet intensely passionate, and the orchestra responds to his direction by digging deep and playing with a commitment that is nearly perceptible. These symphonies and En Saga are representative of Sibelius' mature style, so their deliberate pacing and steady unfolding of motives into organic developments over long time spans require attentive listening, but the clarity of Elder's readings makes the progress of the music easy to follow. Add to this the exceptional reproduction, which brings out every detail with crispness, and presents the Hallé's warm and rich sonorities with credible presence, and the end result is a nearly ideal presentation of Sibelius' music.