In the absence of the availability of the Ashkenazy recording of these same works on the London CD label (I am a "library listener" right now!), I finally had a chance to listen to and study these orchestral works by Alexander Scriabin. I found myself feeling impressed.
Many critics and detractors constantly point out the overly analytical aspect of Pierre Boulez's musical interpretations, a fact he himself admitted to. However, I think that his thoughtfulness, knowledge of orchestral sonorities, attention to detail and architecture, and striving for perfection make for crisp, warm, and full-bodied interpretations.
The "Poem of Ecstasy" is performed with clarity, attention to detail, and an air of mystery. Boulez's French background give this piece an overall sound and feeling that recalls his recording of "Daphnis et Chloe," by Maurice Ravel. The trumpet plays with excellent tone and clarity. The strings seem to balance well with the rest of the orchestra. Perhaps there is too much of a feeling of Ravel and Debussy in this piece, but I find the interpretation very convincing. The final orchestral climax is most impressive, indeed!
Next, I found myself enjoying the collaboration of Anatol Ugorski and Boulez in the Piano Concerto in F-sharp minor and the "Poem of Fire." Ugorski plays with beauty, sensitivity, and crystalline clarity. He is an accomplished virtuoso pianist. Ugorski's playing shows the strong connection with Scriabin and his reverence for the piano music of Frederic Chopin. The orchestra gives a performance full of precision and the attention to detail that never escapes Boulez.
The "Poem of Fire" is even more mysterious and evocative to me than the "Poem of Ecstasy." One can hear the increase of fourth chords, augmented chords, whole tone scales, and tritone modulations that give Scriabin's sound world its unique sonorities. Once again, Ugorski gives a wonderfully detailed, evocative performance, and Boulez gives an outstanding accompaniment. The sound quality of this CD is absolutely outstanding!
Overall, I understand that the Ashkenazy recording of these works is the definitive performance and recording of them, but one cannot go far wrong with this CD. If you can overlook the "Frenchness" of this interpretation and don't mind thoughtful, analytical music-making, this CD is well worth your money and time investment.