Relayed from the Assembly Room, City Hall
National Orchestra of Wales
Leader, Albert Voorsanger
Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite
As a young man of twenty-two, Debussy won the coveted Prix de Rome, the highest award which French music students can gain. In the previous year he had been runner-up in the competition for the same prize, and a number of other prizes had already been awarded to him for accompaniment, for counterpoint and fugue. This is the work with which he won the Prix de Rome, and in many ways it has to be confessed that it betrays a somewhat immature hand.
Melodious and smoothly flowing it certainly is, and the air of Lia, the Prodigal's mother, is a fine number which seems to be assured of lasting popularity. Another air, sung by Azael (The Prodigal), is also effective, but on the whole the work is of a rather slight order. It is often described as an opera, and has been given in stage versions, but it is really a cantata intended for concert performance.
Although it is more than thirteen years since he died, at the age of forty-four, Scriabin is still but imperfectly understood. Whether posterity will regard him as one of the greatest figures in the history of music, widening and enriching the scope and beauty of his art as only inspired reformers can do, or whether he will be thought of merely as a crank whose ideals were impossible, cannot yet be said with certainty. His sincerity at least is beyond question, as is the fiery zeal with which his work is infused: one may find his music uplifting, vibrant with a passionate exaltation of the deeper mysteries of life; another may hear in it little but jangling discord, with here and there a moment of ethereal lyrical beauty. But none can doubt that the ideal towards which he strove with such a blazing ardour was as noble as any which ever inspired the martyrs of old.
To embody in music the whole of life and art, Nature and all mankind's experience; to give final and complete expression to humanity's highest form of life - such was the aim towards which he strove, and each of his works is only one sentence, as it were, in expounding what was to him a religion.
For a time strongly influenced by Wagner, he evolved a very individual style of his own, and in this, the third of his symphonies, he reveals a whole new world of ideas. It is music transfigured, sublimated, freed from the trammels of time and space, moving like light itself, and with an ecstatic joyousness uplifted far above mere earthly things.
To analyze this Symphony in any conventional way, even, were it possible, would not help the listener to realize all that Scriabin would have it mean. It must suffice to say that a short, slow introduction - 'divine, grandiose'- heralds the first main movement, which is called 'Struggles.' 'Mysterious, tragic, triumphant, intoxicated with joy, weary, oppressed, romantic and legendary, tender, impassioned, monstrous and terrifying' - these are some of the descriptive epithets used in the score itself as guides to the players in the moods they are to express. The second movement, following without a break, is headed 'Pleasures.' Beginning slowly, with the indication 'sublime,' it passes through changes of abandon and languor, to finish quickly with 'divine soaring.'
Again without a break, the last movement follows, beginning 'with a dazzling joy'; its other indications are 'winging breathlessly,' 'divinely radiant,' and 'sublime ecstatic joy.' The movement closes with a section marked simply 'divine' - a summing up of all the joyous exaltation with which it is infused.
National Orchestra of
Orchestra conducted by:
The hero of this Symphonic Poem by Glazounov is a fierce marauder, who gives the piece its name. He was a terror, with his fierce horde, over a wide area of the Volga, where his own ship sailed in more than regal splendour. The sails were silk, the oars of gold, and in the middle of its pavilion there rested, surrounded by every mark of opulence, the Princess Persane, Stenka's captive and mistress. One day she told his comrades of a dream, in which Stenka had been shot and all his band put to death, while she herself perished in tho waves of the Volga.
Her dream came true. Stenka was surrounded by the soldiers of the Czar, and, foreseeing his doom, he said: 'Never, through all the thirty years of my career, have I offered a gift to the Volga. Today I give it what is for me the most precious of all the treasures of the earth'; and with those words he hurled the princess into the stream. His warriors raised a song in his glory, and then all flung themselves upon the soldiers of the Czar.
With that description in mind, the music unfolds with vivid picturesqueness. It is a subject such as Glazounov can illustrate admirably, with his command of picturesque orchestral colouring.