Stokowski/HSO - Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstacy
Studio master 24-Bit/96-kHz | FLAC tracks | Full Scan Covers | MU, RS | 632 MB 3% recovery
1959 | Genre: Classical | Label: Everest | SDBR-3032 | HDTrack hi-res digital download
A Bert Whyte recording of Maestro Stokowski conducting the Houston Symphony at the Houston Civic Center in 1959. Le Poeme d’extase is a big, one movement work in sonata form that combines the elements of a symphony and a tone poem. The work highlights Scriabin’s development and exploitation of new harmonic ideas including chord structures constructed on intervals of a fourth instead of a third. Coupled on this release is another Stokowski/Houston performance of Amirov’s “Azerbaijan Mugan” recorded on March 16th, 1959 at the Houston Civic Center. Amirov’s composition, masterfully performed by Stokowski and the Houston, exhibits the complicated system of mode scales and fixed melodic patterns characteristic of music of the East.
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) must have seemed strange to his contemporaries although today his eccentricities probably wouldn't seem too out-of-place. His fantasy world was extreme, his imagination vivid. Evolving from the writings of Nietzsche, Prince Trubetskoy and Wagner, Scriabin's philosophy eventually developed into his own mystical concept of life and art, known as Orphism, "the rites and religion ascribed to Orpheus as founder." Orpheus was a poet-musician with "magic musical powers" who descended into the underworld in an unsuccessful attempt to bring back his wife Euyrdice. Scriabin wanted to glorify "Art as a religion, particularly in his symphonic works. Scriabin attempted to depict the human soul freeing itself from material bondage by ceaseless creative activity to reach what Scriabin called "divine play" as the soul reaches its fullest expression. A fine pianist, Scriabin gave many concerts often featuring his own works. Although he composed primarily for the piano, he also was a master of orchestration.
Scriabin considered himself to be a "Messiah," an inspired bringer of enlightenment to humanity. His goal was to write a final symphonic work to be called "The Mystery," which would be a massive religious/artistic event combining all of the senses in a supreme and final ecstasy. This grandiose work would reflect the history of the universe, the human race and the human mind. The music's presentation would be its fulfillment, not its performance. This "monster concert" would feature all of Scriabin's orchestral works (no music of other composers, of course!!) performed in chronological order with thousands of musicians – presumably color keyboards as well, to be performed on the highest peaks of the Himalayan mountains. (Don't even begin to think of logistics of such an event!). After the performance the human race would disappear, to be replaced by another group of beings "higher and nobler." Details of how this would be accomplished were not explained in the overall scheme of things.
Scriabin expressed his ideas initially in his Symphony No. 1 (1899-1900), scored for tenor and soprano soloists and chorus; Symphony No. 2 (1901), and Symphony No. 3 (1902-4) subtitled "The Divine Poem." In 1905 Scriabin began to compose his Poem of Ecstasy, which he elected to call his Symphony No. 4 even though it is stretching the definition of the form to the extreme to label a work such as this a "symphony." Scriabin seldom gave a concise programmatic description of his music, but he did write in rather vague terms about Poem. Scriabin described three sections: (l) his soul in the orgy of love, (2) the realization of a fantastic dream, and (3) the glory of his own art. He also wrote a long poem to accompany the music although not to be heard over it. The poem ends with, "I am a moment illuminating eternity….I am affirmation…I am ecstasy." In his biography of Scriabin, A. Eaglefield Hull describes Poem of Ecstasy as follows: in the first section, we find "human striving after the ideal" with "the Ego theme gradually realizing itself. The principal theme of the main section is associated with "the soaring flight of the spirit," the second theme, for solo violin, with "human love," and the third, for solo trumpet, with "the will to rise up." Varied emotions are expressed in the music: tragedy, stress, defiance, charm, pleasure and ecstasy. Towards the end, the trumpet becomes bolder and more majestic, abetted by other brass. The Epilogue is of immense power and triumphant grandeur, with tolling orchestral bells and heavy organ underpinning. To guide conductors, the score has such designations as molto languido ("as languid as possible"), très parfumé ("very perfumed"), avec une noble et joyeuse émotion ("with a lofty and joyous emotion"), avec une volupté de plus en plus extatique ("with a sensual pleasure even more rapturous" ), and charmé ( "beguiled") – plus more common indications including "dramatic," "languishing," "tragic," "delirium" and "majestic."
(Robert E. Benson)
A prolific composer in many genres, including operas, musical comedies, songs, orchestral works and stage and film music, Fikret Amirov came to prominent public attention at the age of 26, when his two symphonic mugams, Shur and Kyurdi Ovshari, were first performed in Baku in August 1948 to popular acclaim. Based on the Azerbaijani mugam, a highly improvisatory form of folk-music which alternates song and dance-like episodes, Shur and Kyurdi Ovshari, together with Amirov’s third symphonic mugam from 1971, Gyulistan Bayati Shiraz, sparkle with brilliant orchestration, rich melodic invention and expressive instrumental solos.
Houston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
1. Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstacy, Op.54
2. Amirov: Azerbaijan Mugam ("Kyurdi Ovshari")