Thursday, November 07, 2013

Scriabin, synaesthetic symbolist

The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers during his lifetime - but his fame declined quickly after his death and has only been reclaimed to a considerable extent in the past two decades. His style may be characterized as a modern version of late romanticism, with a dash of impressionism and a large helping of symbolism. In addition, his own synesthesia affected his compositions, with colours and smells mixed in with the sounds. As an introduction to his works, I picked the Naxos CD with two of his main compositions, the third symphony from 1904 and the Poem of ecstasy, which is sometimes called the fourth symphony, from 1908. The playing by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under Igor Golovshin is good, if perhaps a notch less impressive than some of the competitors, but with the usual Naxos price advantage, this is a great introduction to a rewarding composer.