Scriabin: Symphony No 3, Op 43 (The Divine Poem); The Poem of Ecstasy, Op 54

Reviewed on Mon 14 Dec, 2015

A big, bold Divine Poem that more than fits the bill. Valery Gergiev is an impassioned guide and draws some notably sweet playing from the LSO violins.

A big, bold Divine Poem that more than fits the bill. For evidence, beam up around 5'30” into the first movement: after a brassy lento introduction we’re thrown amongst ‘struggles’, unequivocally so – or at least that’s what you would have thought. Valery Gergiev is an impassioned guide and draws some notably sweet playing from the LSO violins. But there’s trouble waiting in the wings. His name, Vasily Petrenko, whose identical coupling with the Oslo Philharmonic (Lawo LWC 1088) is, quite frankly, in a different class. Compare the two introductions: Gergiev fairly straightforward, Petrenko warm and emphatic; and, once into ‘Struggles’, the contrast is even more striking, Petrenko cuing the music with a pointillist touch and commanding a far wider range of dynamics than Gergiev. Don’t get me wrong, if Gergiev and the LSO had been your only port of call, the impact of Scriabin’s score will still have registered, but not with a parallel level of intensity. The same goes for the Fourth Symphony (The Poem of Ecstasy), where at the very close of the work Petrenko draws a subtle but noticeable crescendo, whereas Gergiev’s closing bar tails off rather. So, my advice is, if you’re a newcomer to this music, opt for Petrenko; and if you already have Pletnev’s identical coupling (DG) and don’t fancy changing, you needn’t feel hard done by – that too is marvellous.
–Rob Cowan