Alexander Scriabin – The Poem of Ecstasy {Le Poème de l’extase}



– Composer: Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (6 January 1872 — 27 April 1915)
– Orchestra: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
– Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy
– Year of recording: 1991

Sculpture: detail of “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” (Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini 1647-1652)

Le Poème de l’extase {Poem of Ecstasy}, Op. 54, written in 1905-1908.

During the decade immediately preceding the First World War, the European musical scene was developing at an astonishing pace. Schoenberg moved from the massive, two-hour-long Gurrelieder, with its epic Romantic text and equally lush score, to the concise and stringent Piano Pieces, Op. 11 in a matter of just eight years, while by 1913 Stravinsky was ready to unveil his Rite of Spring. Although Scriabin stayed apart from these developments, his extraordinary innovations during the first decade of the century are at the very heart of this musical realignment. Although generally regarded as a composer for the piano, Scriabin is the author of five large-scale orchestral works (all composed between about 1900 and 1910) that showcase his revolutionary artistic genius in much the same way that the piano sonatas do.

In Le poème de l’extase of 1908, the journey towards atonality and thematic fragmentation is by no means complete (the real musical goal would not be reached until the final few sonatas), but enough of the composer’s increasingly complex mystical and theosophical views saturate the score to bring to it a density and complexity of expression denied to the three symphonies that precede it. It is a work that stands with great pride beside the massive German orchestral works of the period, both a mesmerizing portrait of those troubled years and, at the same time, a uniquely intimate picture of an artist’s fascinating mind.

The Poem was originally to take the shape of a fourth symphony, but Scriabin decided to cast it instead as a 20-minute orchestral poem based on his own Poem of Ecstasy, a 369-line poem celebrating and glorifying his own creative powers (which would, according to his vision of reality, play a crucial role in the approaching transformation of the world). The orchestra is large — twice the classical contingent of winds and brass are required — and, unlike Mahler or Schoenberg, who used even greater forces than this, by no means sparingly used.

Although Scriabin’s orchestral experience was limited, he was one of the early twentieth century’s masters of orchestration, and throughout the Poem of Ecstasy his orchestral writing is brilliant. Themes are used to delineate mental and emotional states (in this way the late orchestral works are quite unlike the late piano works, which employ an almost exclusively textural and harmonic narrative structure). At the opening, the flute gesture searches longingly, the clarinet dreams, and the trumpet foretells a still-distant victory. An equestrian stride commences, only to be abruptly halted to make room for an ardent violin solo. As the many levels of expression unfold the music is highly chromatic, but not particularly dissonant. A glorious climax draws the music to an appropriately ecstatic finish in C major — a key that had, for Scriabin, a cleansing and focusing quality.

Modest Altschuler, who helped Scriabin revise the score in Switzerland in 1907, and who conducted the premiere with the Russian Symphony Society of New York on 10 December 1908, reported that Scriabin’s implied program (which does not appear in the score) is based on three main ideas: his soul in the orgy of love, the realization of a fantastical dream, and the glory of his own art.

Henry Miller made a reference to this symphony in Nexus, the third volume of The Rosy Crucifixion:
“That Poème de l’extase? Put it on loud. His music sounds like I think – sometimes. Has that far-off cosmic itch. Divinely fouled up. All fire and air. The first time I heard it I played it over and over. (…) It was like a bath of ice, cocaine and rainbows. For weeks I went about in a trance. Something had happened to me. (…) Every time a thought seized me a little door would open inside my chest, and there, in this comfy little nest sat a bird, the sweetest, gentlest bird imaginable. ‘Think it out!’ he would chirp. ‘Think it out to the end!’ And I would, by God. Never any effort involved. Like an étude gliding off a glacier.”

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Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

26 thoughts on “Alexander Scriabin – The Poem of Ecstasy {Le Poème de l’extase}

  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    Alekszandr Szkrjabin:Az Eksztázis költeménye Op.54
    Berlini Rádió Szimfonikus Zenekara
    Vezényel:Vladimir Ashkenazy

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    φυστικοβουτυροοομμμ 🕉
    φυστικοβουτυροοομμμ 🕉

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    I am torn between this and Prometheus but my favourite is the black mass sonata 😀

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    This music is a brilliant argument that tonality can never be completely abandoned.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    i dont have no fucking idea of this music but i like yes nice 🙂

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    scriabin surely captures infinite ecstatic samadhis, all included in a just a moment of pure awareness which can devour the whole universe. here he creates a new dimension, a small buddha-field, full of buddhas.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    That idea of putting the pentagram in the video is very nice. And must have been quite a lot of work…

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    The ending gets me every time. The power of that c major chord! A very unusual exploration of the possibilities of an often looked over key.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    Totally insane, outstanding, crazy harmony. that's why I listen Scriabin.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    does anyone have the poem Scriabin wrote for the music? I can't find the full poem anywhere

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    does anyone have the poem Scriabin wrote for the music? I can't find the full poem anywhere

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    This piece is called The Poem of Ecstasy because when you listen to it you get put into a state of ecstasy.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    After further review the wiki page for the mystic chord seems to expand our discussion of this alien harmony better than any reference I have found so far. The chord itself implies a Lydian dominant tonality which is the 4th degree of the major/minor scale, this is the first thing that popped in my head but upon reading superimposing different series of tones on the top allowed him to change tonality at will. This says two things to me, first the function of the chord is to disguise the tonality so the melody is free to go in any direction, it is not tied to major or minor, second the tones played on top of the chord imply a series of notes invloving more than seven notes, or mixing scales togather for example whole tone mixed with Lydian or synthetic scales like half whole half whole or half half whole half half whole. Scale theory is only a way of describing the patterns of intervals but in practice I don't think he was thinking about that, I think these strange melodic patterns started to emerge and I think he was just substituting different intervals to keep these melodic patterns interesting and finding a chord that allowed him to explore without being tied to a specific tonal series. I think he was looking for that note that gave it an alien sound, then a few bars later was reaching for something completely different. I think he was also trying to disguise the concept of a defined tonal center.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    My curiosity with the transformation of his sound led me to dig out a book I purchased a long time ago but am only getting to now titled Scriabin His Life and Times by Rudakova and Kadinsky. Although it is about 150 pages it is a pretty large sized book, maybe 24 x 12 and contains excerpts of many letters he wrote and some wonderful photos not only of him his wives and family but also selected pages of original manuscripts, concert programs, places he lived and studied and wrote music, and photos of notable musicians who championed his music and premiered his orchestral music and also many of his contemporaries and teachers including Taneyev, Rachmaninoff, Miaskovsky, Lyadov. Glazunov, Rimsky Korsakov, Alexandrov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, many others. It great to have if you're a fan of his or Russian music in general. Maybe this will be one step closer to understanding the cause and theory of the changes he made with his music I am so curious about.

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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    What a magnificent sculpture, the expression on her face is so – well – expressive, what an appropriate image to display as it relates to the title and concept. I don't know why but there is a certain warmth I feel when I hear this: golds and yellows and oranges but at the same time it's so alien – like watching a Vulcan sunrise – from another planet. From my perspective, I do not associate this with ecstacy, I do not associate this with being human. It is a sound from a different world. It is terrifically modern without being dissonant or atonal, a fresh sounding piece even though it was written over 100 years ago.

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