This Scriabin set is one of the finer offerings in Universal's Trio series. Vladimir Ashkenazy's crisp phrasing and lean orchestral sonorities contrast markedly with the lush appointments of Riccardo Muti's cycle, which relies heavily on the voluptuous sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra to make its effect. In this regard Muti scores over Ashkenazy in the First symphony, where the Russian conductor's crisp, no-nonsense approach sounds comparatively restrained (especially the highly emotive second movement). But the tables turn in Symphony No. 2. Here Ashkenazy's clarity and focus give much needed shape and rhythmic definition to this music, which tends to meander in Muti's hands. The finale is a perfect example: muscle with Ashkenazy; mush with Muti.
Ashkenazy's sharp contours and high energy make for a distinctly compelling account of the rhapsodic Third Symphony, while in Poem of Ecstasy his passionate conducting galvanizes the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester to produce a stunningly executed, blistering performance. Prometheus does not reach this exalted level (Boulez's recording is one of the few that do), but Peter Jablonski and Ashkenazy do establish a synergistic rapport that evokes the music's mysticism. The two artists are just as in sync for Scriabin's early Chopinesque Piano Concerto, resulting in an elegant yet warmly romantic rendition.
The collection offers an additional bonus in Scriabin's Reverie. Composed a year after the Piano Concerto in 1898, it nonetheless displays a budding chromaticism along with hints of the sensuality that would typify the composer's later work. This, plus the excellent soloist and choral contributions--as well as Decca's clear and powerfully present sound--makes Ashkenazy's Scriabin set a choice acquisition, especially at the bargain price.--Victor Carr Jr,