The opening Andante movement is really an introduction, announcing thematic ideas that will govern the music that follows: a dynamic Allegro, an atmospheric and lyrical slow movement coloured by the sound of birdcalls; a tempestuous and driven scherzo; and a grand triumphant finale. The heart of the work is the sumptuously coloured central slow movement, whilst the finale achieves the universal appeal the composer aimed for with a straightforward triumphant march in C major.
Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915) was a contemporary of Rachmaninov – they were both highly gifted pianists, sharing the same piano teacher, Nicolai Zverev, and entered, and graduated from, the Moscow Conservatoire together, becoming good friends even though they were sometimes portrayed as rivals once their musical ambitions ventured in different directions.
Upon graduating Scriabin had a successful career as concert pianist – the music of Chopin featured prominently in his repertoire, and for a time influenced the music he wrote.
He wrote his Symphony No.2 in 1901 and although grounded in the spirit of the 19th century masters Scriabin revered, it is also the work of a composer with his own individual voice. It’s a big work that goes beyond the conventional four-movement symphonic scheme. The five movements are laid out as a three-part structure: the first and second are played without a break, as are the fourth and fifth. These two linked pairs stand on either side of a long slow movement. Unusually, each movement is set in a different key.
When Vassily Safonoff, conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1903 to 1919, conducted Scriabin’s Second Symphony for the first time, he waved the score at the orchestra and said, “Here is the new Bible, gentlemen…”
Come and hear the Brighton Phil perform this exciting work on Sunday 26 March in the final concert of their current season at Brighton Dome, under the baton of much-loved Conductor Laureate Barry Wordsworth. Tickets from £12-£37 are available from Brighton Dome Ticket Office (01273) 709709 or www.brightondome.org