Prometheus – The Poem of Fire

Last week, I heard mention of a program about Scriabin’s ‘Prometheus‘ with Bill Mival that had already aired on Radio 3. It caught my attention because I’m fond of the myth of Prometheus, and wondered how a composer might capture the dramatic narrative and emotional palette of such a tale through music.

I must have been only five or six years old when the headmaster introduced us to Greek myths in school assemblies. Prometheus defied Zeus by stealing fire to give to us humans – cheers, Mr P – and as a result was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver torn out and eaten by an eagle. That’s quite harsh as punishments go, but it doesn’t end there. The eagle would tear at his liver all daylong, only for it to grow back overnight ready for the next day’s eagle ‘all you can eat’ feast. then Heracles turns up and frees Prometheus from that pesky eagle. Let’s hope he brought a bottle of milk thistle tincture with him.

Heracles frees Prometheus

‘I need a hero….’ Luckily, Heracles is on hand to save the day – hooray! 

I ‘listened again’ to the program on I-Player and really enjoyed it. Bill Mival plays extracts from various recordings of Scriabin’s piece comparing their strengths and weaknesses. To my ears the work sounded brooding, unsettling and wonderfully suited the tension of the story. I love that Radio 3 doesn’t just churn out familiar classical favourites, but also includes programs like this which consider musical works in greater detail and offer interesting background about the history of both the composition, the composers and even the conductors interpreting them.

I thought this was great so I’m sharing the love. There’s a link to the Radio 3 program below, and a youtube video of a performance of the piece by Martha Argerich

Just click on the link below, sit back and enjoy.

BBC Radio 3 CD Review: Scriabin’s Prometheus – The Poem of Fire

Here are some other works based on the Myth of Prometheus, if you fancy checking them out:

BEETHOVEN: The Creatures of Prometheus Op. 43

LISZT: Prometheus, symphonic poem No. 5, S99

NONO: Prometeo