Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some postromantic music by Alexander Scriabin


Alexander Scriabin’s music fused late romantic and expressionistic styles in an interesting manner.  Sometimes he indulges in Wagnerian grandiosity, as at the end of “The Divine Poem”.  But typically his most emotive music also has a French feel, almost impressionistic. Yet his ancestry is Russian, and some of his mystical theories seem to be, also.

A CD from 1999 with Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony illustrates these points.


The most important work on the CD is the early Piano Concerto in F# Minor, Op. 20 (1896), with pianist Anatol Ugorski.  Although this early piano work is said to show influences of Chopin, and it does early, it already shows the emotional sweep, with soaring melodies that suggest Rachmaninoff.  The glorious theme in the Finale has caught the attention of Hollywood a few times.  The very end has three very loud F# Major chords, but no conclusive octave with a drum roll which you expect (as from Divine Poem). The slow movement shows some simplicity, with lovely variations.

The other two works, have been called the Fourth and Fifth symphonies respectively, but they are more like Liszt tone poems.

The “Poem of Ecstasy” (“La Poeme de l’extase”), Op. 54, in C, runs 22 minutes, and has some of the language of the Divine Poem, but with even more impressionism.  There is a soaring theme that dominates the piece, finally building to a glorious C Major conclusion with a momentary pianissimo before the very end; yet the conclusion is less drawn out than that of the Divine.

“Prometheus: Poem of Fire” (“Le Poeme de feu”), Op. 60, has choral and piano parts, and shows more explicitly Scriabin’s theories of making harmonies and melodies co-generate, both out of successive intervals of fourths, which sometimes give an atonal effect.  The entire piece is centered in the key of F#. The buildup to the final conclusion is not as effective to my ear as in the earlier tone poems and symphonies.
  
Second picture: NASA shot of Moscow, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


 

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