Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Symphony no. 3"The Divine Poem" Op 43
"Poem of Ecstasy" Op 54

(Transcribed for two pianos by Lev Konyus)
Ilona Prunyi and Sandor Falvai, Pianos
Naxos 8.555327 [56:12]

Scriabin was a superb pianist by all accounts. Indeed, when he graduated as a pianist from the Moscow Conservatory with a second prize in 1892, the first prize winner was none other than Serge Rachmaninov. However, in spite of his undoubted keyboard skills I believe that these works were magnificently conceived specifically for the extravagant orchestral forces which the composer employed. Scriabin had a phenomenal ear for orchestral texture and colour and it is notable that his own attempt to prepare a two piano version of The Poem of Ecstasy ended in failure, hence the intervention of the brother of his former teacher, Georgy Konyus. Lev Konyus had already prepared a two piano version of The Divine Poem some years earlier which at one time was believed lost.

The intention was that the two piano scores would be of help to conductors when preparing performances of the works and in this respect they can be viewed as purely practical exercises. Indeed, when one considers what must have been seen as the complexity and eccentricity of this music, the benefit to the conductor of being able to get inside the music through these scores can be understood.

In reality they do stand up as works in their own right although I suspect that they will only be of passing interest to anyone other than Scriabin devotees or those undertaking a serious study of the works.

The performances are somewhat disappointing in that they simply fail to come to life. I found myself wanting for a greater degree of passion and, ultimately, abandon in the playing. In this respect the Poem of Ecstasy fares rather better than The Divine Poem, but overall these are "safe" performances which take few risks. When one considers the clear sexual programme of the Poem of Ecstasy I found that the earth just did not move for me.

The recording is a little lacklustre and not as well engineered as certain other Naxos releases which I have listened to of late. I would add that although there is a useful booklet note by Keith Anderson the pianists themselves are given no introduction and will therefore remain as mysterious to the listener as the elusive masterpieces which they perform.

Overall then this disc does have some curiosity value and is possibly worth a listen for those who are familiar with these works. For those who are not my advice is to listen to them in all their orchestral glory first.


Christopher Thomas




Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit