I shall go to tell people that they are strong and powerful!
Le Poème de l’extase, unlike any other work by Alexander Scriabin, reflected the composer’s philosophical concept of art with incredible power and detail. The brevity and laconic nature of the piece (the poem lasts less than twenty minutes) and the crystalline clarity of the musical form (unlike the vague and mystical literary programme) won Le Poème de l’extase great popularity among audiences.
The abundance of brief musical formulae named by the composer – at times somewhat grandiloquently as motifs of “languor”, “freedom”, “enjoyment” and “artistic heights” – does not result in a kaleidoscopic whole. All of the themes are woven together by the focussed emergence of the main idea and the steady advance towards its fulfilment. It is as if the musical development occurs in circles – waves of rising interspersed with instances of meditation, of contemplation. All this variety of inner conditions and moods is cemented by the steady ascent to the general culmination of the work. The theme of “freedom” (given to the solo trumpet) and the theme of “self-assertion” are paramount in this ascent.
The dazzlingly bright epilogue of Le Poème de l’extase staggers with its hitherto unknown breadth and titanic power. The orchestra rings out, it sparks, it flows – it would appear – with every colour of the aural spectrum; the jubilant brass, the eight horns bells-in-air, and the trumpet – supported by the organ pedal and a bell ringing out – lead the theme of “self-assertion” which resounds with truly superhuman energy.
The first performance of Le Poème de l’extase took place on 10 December 1908 in New York and was conducted by Modest Altschuler. The St Petersburg premiere of the poem soon followed (31 January 1909 under the baton of Felix Blumenfeld).