31 May 2015

August 22nd, 1968 : Svetlanov conducts “The Poem of Ecstasy”

London, 1968. Evgeny Svetlanov lights a huge bonfire to the glory of Scriabin.
Published on 2 April 2015 by Bertrand Boissard

The Poem of Ecstasy, Scriabin’s Orchestral masterpiece, and his most famous sheet music, is forever linked to Evgeny Svetlanov. Those lucky enough to have listened to the Russian conductor interpreting this luxuriant work in concert, a true orgy of sounds, are not likely to forget the presence, the power and the tension with which he infused the work. On August 22nd, 1968, in one of his rare appearances in the West during that period, he conducted the USSR State Symphony Orchestra (founded in 1936) at the Royal Albert Hall. At the time, not many had interpreted the works of that mystical composer: Leopold Stokowsky in the West and Nikolay Golovanov in Russia were considered the high priests in the matter. Few others attempted the venture. Originally a long poem by the composer, that would act as prelude to the contemporary Fifth sonata and that begins with these words: “I call you to life, O mysterious forces…”. Evgeny Svetlanov was totally dedicated to Music. His generosity drove him to defend compositors who were, in his view, unfairly cast in the shadows, chief among whom were Scriabin and Medtner, but he also got hold of an impressive number of pages by Russian composers and was devoutly partial to Mahler. In this invigorating recording, as with many of his live interpretations, he perceives The Poem of Ecstasy as an epic confrontation between several worlds, a vibrant, sensual Cosmogony.  All these spiritual forces, their energy and their ability to mix and merge in a formidable alchemy, the sound masses, to inhabit an inexorable flow, all this tending towards a unique goal: The irresistible final crescendo which he sustains longer than anyone else and with colossal intensity. The effect in concert was prodigious and could only induce in the public, as can be heard from Prom’s in this recording, immense acclaim. Svetlanov passed away in 2002 at the age of 73. He lives on in the memory of music lovers as an artist capable of uplifting any partition and getting the audience to access a sort of infinity. His fanatic romanticism of another era, which prevented him from touching “modern” works, helped make him one of the most inspired and sensitive musicians of the 20th century.

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