Alexander Scriabin
Overview
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist who initially developed a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language inspired by the music of Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

. Quite independent of the innovations of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Scriabin developed an increasingly atonal musical system, accorded to mysticism, that presaged twelve-tone composition
Twelve-tone technique
Twelve-tone technique is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg...

 and other serial music
Serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

. The first major example of this is the 5th piano sonata of 1907, although the process of innovation was somewhat gradual.
Quotations

Skryabin comes so close to the twelve-note system that it seems probable he would have taken it as the next logical step.

Ellon Carpenter, quoted in Faubion Bowers (1973), The New Scriabin, p.171. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Encyclopedia
Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin was a Russian composer and pianist who initially developed a lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language inspired by the music of Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

. Quite independent of the innovations of Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

, Scriabin developed an increasingly atonal musical system, accorded to mysticism, that presaged twelve-tone composition
Twelve-tone technique
Twelve-tone technique is a method of musical composition devised by Arnold Schoenberg...

 and other serial music
Serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

. The first major example of this is the 5th piano sonata of 1907, although the process of innovation was somewhat gradual. He may be considered to be the main Russian Symbolist
Russian Symbolism
Russian symbolism was an intellectual and artistic movement predominant at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It represented the Russian branch of the symbolist movement in European art, and was mostly known for its contributions to Russian poetry.-Russian symbolism in...

 composer.

Scriabin influenced composers like Roy Agnew
Roy Agnew
Roy Ewing "Robert" Agnew was an Australian composer and pianist. He has been called the most outstanding Australian composer of the early twentieth century.-Early life and education:...

, Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

, Nikolai Roslavets
Nikolai Roslavets
Nikolai Andreevich Roslavets was a significant Soviet modernist composer. Roslavets was a convinced modernist and cosmopolitan thinker; his music was officially suppressed from 1930 onwards....

 and Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, although Scriabin was reported to have disliked the music of both Prokofiev and Stravinsky. The work of Roslavets, unlike that of Prokofiev and Stravinsky, is often seen as a direct extension of Scriabin's. Unlike Scriabin's, however, Roslavets' music was not explained with mysticism and eventually was given theoretical explication by the composer. Roslavets was not alone in his innovative extension of Scriabin's musical language, however, as quite a few Soviet composers and pianists such as Sergei Protopopov
Sergei Protopopov
Sergei Vladimirovich Protopopov was a Russian avant-garde composer and music theorist.- Life :Not much is known about his life. After studying medicine at the Moscow University, he attended the Kiev Conservatory where he pursued studies of music with theorist Boleslav Yavorsky. He graduated in...

, Nikolai Myaskovsky
Nikolai Myaskovsky
Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky was a Russian and Soviet composer. He is sometimes referred to as the "father of the Soviet symphony".-Early years and first important works:...

, and Alexander Mosolov
Alexander Mosolov
Alexander Vasilyevich MosolovMosolov's name is transliterated variously and inconsistently between sources. Alternative spellings of Alexander include Alexandr, Aleksandr, Aleksander, and Alexandre; variations on Mosolov include Mossolov and Mossolow...

 followed this legacy until Stalinist politics quelled it in favor of Socialist Realism
Socialist realism
Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other communist countries. Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style having its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism...

. Scriabin's importance in the Soviet musical scene, and internationally, drastically declined. "No one was more famous during their lifetime, and few were more quickly ignored after death."

Scriabin was one of the most innovative and most controversial of early modern composers. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Great Soviet Encyclopedia
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia is one of the largest and most comprehensive encyclopedias in Russian and in the world, issued by the Soviet state from 1926 to 1990, and again since 2002 .-Editions:There were three editions...

 said of Scriabin that, "No composer has had more scorn heaped or greater love bestowed..." Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 once described Scriabin's music as "a sincere expression of genius."

Scriabin's piano music, particularly the sonatas, has grown in popularity with professional pianists in recent decades. In the 1970s, for instance, there were only three recordings of his complete (published) sonatas.

Childhood and education (1872–1893)

Scriabin was born into an aristocratic
Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India,...

 family in Moscow on Christmas Day 1871, according to the Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 (this translates to 6 January 1872 in the Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

). His father and all of his uncles had military careers. When he was only a year old, his mother—herself a concert pianist and former pupil of Theodor Leschetizky—died of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. After her death, Scriabin's father completed tuition in the Turkish language in St. Petersburg, subsequently becoming a diplomat and finally leaving for Turkey, leaving the infant Sasha (as he was known) with his grandmother, great aunt, and aunt. Scriabin's father would later re-marry, giving Scriabin a number of half-brothers and sisters. His aunt Lyubov (his father's unmarried sister) was an amateur pianist who documented Sasha's early life until the time he met his first wife. As a child, Scriabin was frequently exposed to piano playing, and anecdotal references describe him demanding his aunt play for him.

Apparently precocious, Scriabin began building pianos after being fascinated with piano mechanisms. He sometimes gave away pianos he built to house guests. Lyubov portrays Scriabin as very shy and unsociable with his peers, but appreciative of adult attention. Another anecdote tells of Scriabin trying to conduct an orchestra composed of local children, an attempt that ended in frustration and tears. He would perform his own immature plays and operas with puppets to willing audiences. He studied the piano from an early age, taking lessons with Nikolai Zverev
Nikolai Zverev
Nikolai Sergeyevich Zverev was a Russian pianist and teacher known for his pupils Alexander Siloti, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin, Konstantin Igumnov, Alexander Goldenweiser, and others.- Life :...

, a strict disciplinarian, who was teaching Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

 and a number of other prodigies at the same time, though Scriabin was not a pensionaire like Rachmaninoff.

In 1882 he enlisted with the 2nd Moscow Cadet Corps. As a student, he became friends with the actor Leonid Limontov, although in his memoirs Limontov recalls his reluctance to become friends with Scriabin, who was the smallest and weakest among all the boys and was sometimes teased because of this. However, Scriabin won his peers' approval at a concert in which he played the piano. He ranked generally first of his class in academics, but was exempt from drilling due to his physique and was given time each day to practice at the piano.
Scriabin later studied at the Moscow Conservatory
Moscow Conservatory
The Moscow Conservatory is a higher musical education institution in Moscow, and the second oldest conservatory in Russia after St. Petersburg Conservatory. Along with the St...

 with Anton Arensky
Anton Arensky
Anton Stepanovich Arensky -Biography:Arensky was born in Novgorod, Russia. He was musically precocious and had composed a number of songs and piano pieces by the age of nine...

, Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Taneyev
Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev , was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher of composition, music theorist and author.-Life:...

, and Vasily Safonov. He became a noted pianist despite his small hands, which could barely grasp a ninth
Ninth
In music, a ninth is a compound interval consisting of an octave plus a second.Like the second, the interval of a ninth is classified as a dissonance in common practice tonality. Since a ninth is a larger than a second, its sonority level is considered less dense.-Major ninth:A major ninth is a...

. Feeling challenged by Josef Lhévinne
Josef Lhévinne
Josef Lhévinne was a Russian pianist and piano teacher.Joseph Arkadievich Levin was born into a family of musicians in Oryol and studied at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow under Vasily Safonov...

, he damaged his right hand while practicing Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

's Réminiscences de Don Juan
Réminiscences de Don Juan
Réminiscences de Don Juan is an opera fantasy for piano by Franz Liszt on themes from Mozart's Don Giovanni. It is extremely technically demanding. For this reason, and perhaps also because of its length and dramatic intensity, it does not appear in concert programmes as often as Liszt's lighter...

and Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

's Islamey. His doctor said he would never recover, and he wrote his first large-scale masterpiece, his Piano Sonata No. 1 (the F minor sonata), as a "cry against God, against fate." It was his third sonata to be written, but the first to which he gave an opus number (his second was condensed and released as the Allegro Appassionato, Op. 4). He eventually regained the use of his hand.

In 1892, he graduated with the Little Gold Medal in piano performance, but did not complete a composition degree because of strong differences in personality and musical opinion with Arensky (whose faculty signature is the only one absent from Scriabin's graduation certificate) and an unwillingness to compose pieces in forms that did not interest him. One requirement that he did complete, an E minor fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

, became required learning for decades at the Conservatory.

Career and later life (1894–1915)

In 1894, Scriabin made his debut as a pianist in St. Petersburg, performing his own works to positive reviews. During the same year, Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev was a Russian music publisher, outstanding philanthropist, and the owner of a large wood dealership enterprise in Russia. He was also the founder of the Belyayev circle, a society of musicians in Russia whose members included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov...

 agreed to pay Scriabin to compose for his publishing company (he published works by notable composers such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

 and Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

). In August 1897, Scriabin married the young pianist Vera Ivanovna Isakovich, and then toured in Russia and abroad, culminating in a successful 1898 concert in Paris. That year he became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, and began attempting to establish his reputation as a composer. During this period he composed his cycle of étude
Étude
An étude , is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The tradition of writing études emerged in the early 19th century with the rapidly growing popularity of the piano...

s, Op. 8, several sets of preludes
Prelude (music)
A prelude is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work...

, his first three piano sonata
Sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

s, and his only piano concerto
Piano Concerto (Scriabin)
The Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20, is an early work of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin composed in 1896. Written when he was 24, it was his first work for orchestra and is the only concerto that he wrote...

, among other works, mostly for piano.

For a period of five years Scriabin was based in Moscow, during which time the first two of his symphonies were conducted by his old teacher Safonov. By the winter of 1904, Scriabin and his wife had relocated to Switzerland, where he began work on the composition of his Symphony No. 3 (or The Divine Poem
Symphony No. 3 (Scriabin)
Alexander Scriabin's Symphony No. 3 in C minor , entitled Le Divin Poème , was written between 1902 and 1904 and published in about 1904.Its four sections are as follows:*Introduction*I. Luttes...

).
While living in Switzerland, Scriabin was separated legally from his wife. The Divine Poem was performed in Paris during 1905, where Scriabin was now accompanied by Tatiana Fyodorovna Schloezer—a former pupil and the niece of Paul de Schlözer
Paul de Schlözer
Paul de Schlözer was an obscure Polish or Russian pianist and teacher of German descent. He was possibly also a composer, but the only two works attributed to him may have been written by Moritz Moszkowski....

. With Schloezer, he had other children, including a son named Julian Scriabin
Julian Scriabin
Julian Scriabin was the son of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin and Tatiana de Schloezer. He was himself a composer and pianist. Considered a prodigy, as a composer Julian wrote a few preludes—two of which were published in Сборник —and showed great promise.His few works are reminiscent of his...

, who composed several musical works before drowning in the Dnieper River
Dnieper River
The Dnieper River is one of the major rivers of Europe that flows from Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine, to the Black Sea.The total length is and has a drainage basin of .The river is noted for its dams and hydroelectric stations...

 at Kiev in 1919 at the age of 11 years old. Scriabin may have also had some homosexual encounters.

With the financial assistance of a wealthy sponsor, he spent several years traveling in Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and United States, working on more orchestral pieces, including several symphonies. He was also beginning to compose "poems" for the piano, a form with which he is particularly associated. While in New York City in 1907 he became acquainted with Canadian composer Alfred La Liberté
Alfred La Liberté
Alfred La Liberté was a Canadian composer, pianist, writer on music, and music educator. He was a disciple and close personal friend of Alexander Scriabin. He was also an admirer of Marcel Dupré and Nikolai Medtner. Dupré notably dedicated his Variations, Opus 22 for piano to him and Medtner...

, who went on to become a personal friend and disciple.

In 1907 he settled in Paris with his family and was involved with a series of concerts organized by the impresario
Impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

 Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

, who was actively promoting Russian music
Music of Russia
Music of Russia denotes music produced in Russia and/or by the Russians. Russia is a large and culturally diverse country, with many ethnic groups, each with their own locally developed music...

 in the West at the time. He relocated subsequently to Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (rue de la Réforme 45) with his family.

In 1909 he returned to Russia permanently, where he continued to compose, working on increasingly grandiose projects. For some time before his death he had planned a multi-media work to be performed in the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 Mountains, that would cause a so-called "armageddon
Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

", "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world". Scriabin left only sketches for this piece, Mysterium
Mysterium (Scriabin)
Mysterium is an unfinished musical work by composer Alexander Scriabin. He started working on the composition in 1903, but it was incomplete at the time of his death in 1915.Scriabin planned that the work would be synesthetic,...

, although a preliminary part, named L'acte préalable ("Preparatory Action") was eventually made into a performable version by Alexander Nemtin. Part of that unfinished composition was performed with the title 'Prefatory Action' by Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy is a Russian-Icelandic conductor and pianist. Since 1972 he has been a citizen of Iceland, his wife Þórunn's country of birth. Since 1978, because of his many obligations in Europe, he and his family have resided in Meggen, near Lucerne in Switzerland...

 in Berlin with Aleksei Lyubimov at the piano. The Mysterium was, psychologically, a world Scriabin created to sustain its own evolution.

Scriabin was small and reportedly frail, and a hypochondriac his entire life. At the age of 43 years, he died in Moscow from septicaemia
Sepsis
Sepsis is a potentially deadly medical condition that is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state and the presence of a known or suspected infection. The body may develop this inflammatory response by the immune system to microbes in the blood, urine, lungs, skin, or other tissues...

, contracted as a result of an infected boil on his lip or shaving cut.

Music

Style and musical influences


Many of Scriabin's works are written for the piano. The earliest pieces resemble Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric François Chopin was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He is considered one of the great masters of Romantic music and has been called "the poet of the piano"....

's and include music in many forms that Chopin himself employed, such as the étude
Étude
An étude , is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. The tradition of writing études emerged in the early 19th century with the rapidly growing popularity of the piano...

, the prelude
Prelude (music)
A prelude is a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work...

, the nocturne
Nocturne
A nocturne is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night...

, and the mazurka
Mazurka
The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with accent on the third or second beat.-History:The folk origins of the mazurek are two other Polish musical forms—the slow machine...

. Scriabin's music gradually evolved over the course of his life, although the evolution was very rapid and especially brief when compared to most composers. Aside from his earliest pieces, his works are strikingly original, the mid- and late-period pieces using very unusual harmonies
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and textures
Texture (music)
In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition , thus determining the overall quality of sound of a piece...

. The development of Scriabin's style can be traced in his twelve piano sonata
Piano sonata
A piano sonata is a sonata written for a solo piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although some piano sonatas have been written with a single movement , two movements , five or even more movements...

s: the earliest are composed in a fairly conventional late-Romantic
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 manner and reveal the influence of Chopin and sometimes Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, but the later ones are very different, the last five being written without a key signature
Key signature
In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes unless otherwise altered with an accidental...

. Many passages in them can be said to be atonal
Atonality
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

, though from 1903 through 1908, "tonal unity was almost imperceptibly replaced by harmonic unity."

Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor of his own and other American music. He was instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, and is often referred to as "the Dean of American Composers"...

 praised Scriabin's thematic material as "truly individual, truly inspired", but criticized Scriabin for putting "this really new body of feeling into the strait-jacket of the old classical sonata-form, recapitulation and all" calling this "one of the most extraordinary mistakes in all music." According to Samson the sonata-form of Sonata No. 5 has some meaning to the work's tonal structure, but in Sonata No. 6 and Sonata No. 7 formal tensions are created by the absence of harmonic contrast and "between the cumulative momentum of the music, usually achieved by textural rather than harmonic means, and the formal constraints of the tripartite mould." He also argues that the Poem of Ecstasy and Vers la flamme
Vers la flamme
Vers la flamme, Op. 72 is one of Alexander Scriabin's last few pieces for piano, written in 1914.The melody of the piece is very simple, consisting mainly of descending half steps. However, the unusual harmonies and difficult tremolos create an intense, fiery luminance...

"find a much happier co-operation of 'form' and 'content'" and that later Sonatas such as Sonata No. 9 employ a more flexible sonata-form.

Philosophical influences

Scriabin was interested in Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

's übermensch
Übermensch
The Übermensch is a concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche posited the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra ....

 theory, and later became interested in theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

. Both would influence his music and musical thought. During 1909–10 he lived in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, becoming interested in Jean Delville
Jean Delville
Jean Delville was a Belgian symbolist painter, writer, and occultist. In 1896, he founded the Salon d’Art Idealiste, which is considered the Belgian equivalent to the Parisian Rose & Cross Salon and the Pre-Raphaelite movement in London.-Quotes:-Delville's background:During the last decades of...

's Theosophist philosophy and continuing his reading of Helena Blavatsky.

Theosophist and composer Dane Rudhyar
Dane Rudhyar
Dane Rudhyar , born Daniel Chennevière, was an author, modernist composer and humanistic astrologer. He was the pioneer of modern transpersonal astrology.-Biography:...

 wrote that Scriabin was "the one great pioneer of the new music of a reborn Western civilization, the father of the future musician", and an antidote to "the Latin reactionaries and their apostle, Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

" and the "rule-ordained" music of "Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

's group
Second Viennese School
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and close associates in early 20th century Vienna, where he lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925...

." Scriabin developed his own very personal and abstract mysticism based on the role of the artist in relation to perception and life affirmation. His ideas on reality seem similar to Platonic and Aristotelian theory though much less coherent. The main sources of his philosophy can be found in his numerous unpublished notebooks, one in which he famously wrote "I am God". As well as jottings there are complex and technical diagrams explaining his metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

. Scriabin also used poetry as a means in which to express his philosophical notions, though arguably much of his philosophical thought was translated into music, the most recognizable example being the 9th sonata ('the Black Mass').

Influence of colour

Though these works are often considered to be influenced by synesthesia
Synesthesia
Synesthesia , from the ancient Greek , "together," and , "sensation," is a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway...

, a condition wherein one experiences sensation in one sense in response to stimulus in another, it is doubted that Scriabin actually experienced this. His colour system, unlike most synesthetic experience, accords with the circle of fifths
Circle of fifths
In music theory, the circle of fifths shows the relationships among the 12 tones of the chromatic scale, their corresponding key signatures, and the associated major and minor keys...

: it was a thought-out system based on Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

's Opticks
Opticks
Opticks is a book written by English physicist Isaac Newton that was released to the public in 1704. It is about optics and the refraction of light, and is considered one of the great works of science in history...

. Note that Scriabin did not, for his theory, recognize a difference between a major and a minor tonality of the same name (for example: c-minor and C-Major). Indeed, influenced also by the doctrines of theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

, he developed his system of synesthesia toward what would have been a pioneering multimedia performance: his unrealized magnum opus Mysterium
Mysterium (Scriabin)
Mysterium is an unfinished musical work by composer Alexander Scriabin. He started working on the composition in 1903, but it was incomplete at the time of his death in 1915.Scriabin planned that the work would be synesthetic,...

was to have been a grand week-long performance including music, scent, dance, and light in the foothills of the Himalayas Mountains that was somehow to bring about the dissolution of the world in bliss.

In his autobiographical Recollections, Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

 recorded a conversation he had had with Scriabin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César...

 about Scriabin's association of colour and music. Rachmaninoff was surprised to find that Rimsky-Korsakov agreed with Scriabin on associations of musical keys with colors; himself skeptical, Rachmaninoff made the obvious objection that the two composers did not always agree on the colours involved. Both maintained that the key of D major was golden-brown; but Scriabin linked E-flat major with red-purple, while Rimsky-Korsakov favored blue. However, Rimsky-Korsakov protested that a passage in Rachmaninoff's opera The Miserly Knight accorded with their claim: the scene in which the Old Baron opens treasure chests to reveal gold and jewels glittering in torchlight is written in D major. Scriabin told Rachmaninoff that "your intuition has unconsciously followed the laws whose very existence you have tried to deny."

While Scriabin wrote only a small number of orchestral works, they are among his most famous, and some are performed frequently. They include a piano concerto
Piano Concerto (Scriabin)
The Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20, is an early work of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin composed in 1896. Written when he was 24, it was his first work for orchestra and is the only concerto that he wrote...

 (1896), and five symphonic works
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

, including three numbered symphonies as well as The Poem of Ecstasy
The Poem of Ecstasy
Alexander Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy op. 54 is a symphonic poem written between 1905 and 1908, when Scriabin was actively involved with the Theosophical Society...

(1908) and Prometheus: The Poem of Fire (1910), which includes a part for a machine known as a "clavier à lumières
Clavier à lumières
The clavier à lumières , or tastiéra per luce, as it appears in the score, was a musical instrument invented by Alexander Scriabin for use in his work Prometheus: Poem of Fire. However, only one version of this instrument was constructed, for the performance of Prometheus: Poem of Fire in New York...

", known also as a Luce (Italian for "Light"), which was a colour organ designed specifically for the performance of Scriabin's tone poem. It was played like a piano, but projected coloured light on a screen in the concert hall rather than sound. Most performances of the piece (including the premiere) have not included this light element, although a performance in New York City in 1915 projected colours onto a screen. It has been claimed erroneously that this performance used the colour-organ invented by English painter A. Wallace Rimington when in fact it was a novel construction supervised personally and built in New York specifically for the performance by Preston S. Miller, the president of the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Scriabin's original colour keyboard, with its associated turntable of coloured lamps, is preserved in his apartment near the Arbat in Moscow, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and works.

Performers and legacy

Scriabin himself made recordings of 19 of his own works, using 20 piano rolls, six for the Welte-Mignon
Welte-Mignon
M. Welte & Sons, Freiburg and New York was a manufacturer of orchestrions, organs and reproducing pianos, established in Vöhrenbach by Michael Welte in 1832.-Overview:...

, and 14 for Ludwig Hupfeld of Leipzig. The Welte rolls were recorded during early February 1910, in Moscow, and have been replayed and published on CD. Those recorded for Hupfeld include the Piano Sonatas, Op. 19 and Op. 23.

Scriabin's music has also been performed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

, Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz    was a Russian-American classical virtuoso pianist and minor composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Life and early...

, Arthur Rubinstein
Arthur Rubinstein
Arthur Rubinstein KBE was a Polish-American pianist. He received international acclaim for his performances of the music of a variety of composers...

, Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

, Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Sofronitsky was a Russian pianist, best known as an interpreter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, whose daughter he married.-Biography:Vladimir Sofronitsky was born to a physics teacher father and a mother from an artistic family...

, Wojciech Kocyan, Andrei Gavrilov
Andrei Gavrilov
Andrei Vladimirovich Gavrilov is a Russian pianist.- Life :Gavrilov was born into a multinational family of artists in Moscow. His father was Vladimir Gavrilov , one of the leading Russian painters of the middle of the 20th century, through whom Gavrilov also has German ancestors...

, Bernd Glemser
Bernd Glemser
Bernd Glemser is a German pianist. A student of Vitaly Margulis, in 1989 he became Germany's youngest piano professor at Saarbrücken's Musikochschule....

, Emil Gilels
Emil Gilels
Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was a Soviet pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.His last name is sometimes transliterated Hilels.-Biography:...

, Ruth Laredo
Ruth Laredo
Ruth Laredo was an American classical pianist.She became known in the 1970s in particular for her premiere recordings of the 10 sonatas of Scriabin and the complete solo piano works of Rachmaninoff, for her Ravel recordings and in the last 16½ years before her death for her series in the...

, Marc-André Hamelin
Marc-André Hamelin
Marc-André Hamelin, OC, CQ, is a French Canadian virtuoso pianist and composer.Born in Montreal, Quebec, Marc-André Hamelin began his piano studies at the age of five. His father, a pharmacist by trade who was also a pianist, introduced him to the works of Alkan, Godowsky, and Sorabji when he was...

, Evgeny Kissin
Evgeny Kissin
Evgeny Igorevitch Kissin is a Russian classical pianist and former child prodigy. He has been a British citizen since 2002. He is especially known for his interpretations of the works of the Romantic repertoire, particularly Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt.-Biography:Kissin was born in Moscow to...

, Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau
Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning from the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Debussy...

, Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Vladimir Davidovich Ashkenazy is a Russian-Icelandic conductor and pianist. Since 1972 he has been a citizen of Iceland, his wife Þórunn's country of birth. Since 1978, because of his many obligations in Europe, he and his family have resided in Meggen, near Lucerne in Switzerland...

, Stanislav Neuhaus
Stanislav Neuhaus
Stanislav Genrichowitsch Neuhaus was a Russian classical pianist....

, Michael Ponti
Michael Ponti
Michael Ponti is a concert and recording pianist.-Life and career:Ponti was born in Germany, but has lived in the United States for most of his life...

, Glenn Gould
Glenn Gould
Glenn Herbert Gould was a Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century. He was particularly renowned as an interpreter of the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach...

, Roberto Szidon
Roberto Szidon
Roberto Szidon is a Brazilian classical pianist who has had an international performing and recording career, and has settled in Germany.He gave his first concert at age 9, in his home town of Porto Alegre...

, Robert Taub
Robert Taub
Robert Taub is an American concert pianist known for his performance of contemporary classical music. He has performed and recorded many of the works of Milton Babbitt, Mel Powell, and Vincent Persichetti....

, Dimitri Alexeev
Dimitri Alexeev
-Life:Dmitri Alexeev was a student at the Moscow Conservatory. He also studied under Dmitri Bashkirov. In the 1970s he made his debut in London, Vienna, Chicago and New York...

, Matthijs Verschoor
Matthijs Verschoor
Matthijs Verschoor is a Dutch classical pianist.He studied at the conservatoires of Rotterdam and Amsterdam and continued his studies in Rome and London. Among his teachers are Bart Berman, Willem Brons and John Bingham....

, Piers Lane
Piers Lane
Piers Lane is an Australian classical pianist. His performance career has taken him to more than 40 countries. His concerto repertoire exceeds 75 works.- Early life :...

, Stephen Coombs
Stephen Coombs
Stephen Coombs is one of Britain's best known pianists and currently works with some of the world's foremost orchestras and conductors, as well as performing as a solo artist.-Earlier life:...

, Nikolai Demidenko
Nikolai Demidenko
Nikolai Demidenko is a Russian pianist.Demidenko studied at the Moscow Gnessin School with Anna Kantor and at the Moscow Conservatoire under Dmitri Bashkirov. Demidenko was a medallist at the 1976 Montreal International Piano Competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky International Competition...

, John Ogdon
John Ogdon
John Andrew Howard Ogdon was an English pianist and composer.-Biography:Ogdon was born in Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, and attended Manchester Grammar School, before studying at the Royal Northern College of Music between 1953 and 1957, where his fellow students under Richard Hall...

, Alfred Cortot
Alfred Cortot
Alfred Denis Cortot was a Franco-Swiss pianist and conductor. He is one of the most renowned 20th-century classical musicians, especially valued for his poetic insight in Romantic period piano works, particularly those of Chopin and Schumann.-Early life and education:Born in Nyon, Vaud, in the...

, Evgeny Zarafiants
Evgeny Zarafiants
Evgeny Zarafiants is a pianist. He studied at the Glinka Conservatory in Gorky. Zarafiants later taught at the Conservatory in Nizhny Novgorod. His recordings include the preludes of Alexander Scriabin and the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti...

, Mikhail Pletnev
Mikhail Pletnev
Mikhail Vasilievich Pletnev is a Russian pianist, conductor, and composer.-Life and career:Pletnev was born into a very musical family in Arkhangelsk, then part of the Soviet Union; his father played and taught the bayan, and his mother the piano...

, Daniele Conti
Daniele Conti
Daniele Conti is an Italian footballer who plays as a midfielder for Cagliari.He is the son of former A.S. Roma and Italy star Bruno Conti. His brother, Andrea Conti, is also a footballer, currently playing for AC Bellinzona....

, Boris Berezovsky
Boris Berezovsky (pianist)
- Biography :Berezovsky studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Eliso Virsaladze and privately with Alexander Satz. Following his London début at the Wigmore Hall in 1988, The Times described him as "an artist of exceptional promise, a player of dazzling virtuosity and formidable power."In May 2005...

 and Eric Le Van
Eric Le Van
Eric Le Van is an American classical pianist particularly known for his interpretations of the music of Brahms and Scriabin...

. Swedish pianist Maria Lettberg has recently made an acclaimed recording of all Scriabin's piano music with opus numbers.

Pianists who have performed Scriabin to particular critical acclaim include Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Sofronitsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Sofronitsky was a Russian pianist, best known as an interpreter of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, whose daughter he married.-Biography:Vladimir Sofronitsky was born to a physics teacher father and a mother from an artistic family...

, Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz    was a Russian-American classical virtuoso pianist and minor composer. His technique and use of tone color and the excitement of his playing were legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Life and early...

 and Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Richter
Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter was a Soviet pianist well known for the depth of his interpretations, virtuoso technique, and vast repertoire. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.-Childhood:...

. Sofronitsky never met the composer, as his parents forbade him to attend a concert due to illness. The pianist said he never forgave them. Rubinstein premiered the 5th sonata in the West. Horowitz performed for Scriabin as an 11-year-old child, and Scriabin had an enthusiastic reaction, but cautioned that he needed more training.
As an elderly man, Horowitz remarked that Scriabin had nervous tics and could not sit still for long.

Scriabin's funeral was attended by such numbers that tickets
had to be issued. Rachmaninoff went on tour, playing only Scriabin's music. Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

 admired the composer, and his Visions fugitives
Visions Fugitives
Visions fugitives are a series of short piano pieces written by Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev between 1915 and 1917. They were premiered by Prokofiev on April 15, 1918 in Petrograd, Soviet Union...

bears great likeness to Scriabin's tone and style. Another admirer was the British-Parsi composer Kaikhosru Sorabji
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was an English composer, music critic, pianist, and writer.-Biography:...

 who strenuously collected the obscure works of Scriabin while living in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 as a youth. Sorabji promoted Scriabin even during the years when Scriabin's popularity had decreased greatly. Scriabin's great-great-grandson Elisha Abas
Elisha Abas
Elisha Abas, Israeli born Concert Pianist, was the lifelong student of Pnina Salzman, and mentee of Artur Rubinstein...

 is a concert pianist who divides his time between New York and Israel.

Media

  • Scriabin's own recordings for the Welte-Mignon
    Welte-Mignon
    M. Welte & Sons, Freiburg and New York was a manufacturer of orchestrions, organs and reproducing pianos, established in Vöhrenbach by Michael Welte in 1832.-Overview:...

     have been replayed in modern times and transferred to audio.

Relatives

Scriabin was the uncle of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh
Antony of Sourozh was best known as a writer and broadcaster on prayer and the Christian life. He was a monk and Metropolitan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church...

 of Sourozh, a renowned bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church who directed the Russian Orthodox diocese in Great Britain between 1957 and 2003. Scriabin's daughter Ariane (1906..1944) was born in Italy, converted to Judaism taking the name Sarah and married the Russian poet and Jewish WWII Resistance fighter David Knout
David Knout
Dovid Knout , born in Orhei, Moldova is a Russian Jewish poet, who, with his wife Régine-Ariane and others, established a secret organization called La Main Forte which became the Armee Juive , a World War II resistance movement...

. She was responsible for communications between the command in Toulouse and the partisan forces in the Tarn district and for taking weapons to the partisans, which resulted in her death being ambushed by the French Militia.

See also

  • Synthetic chord
    Synthetic chord
    In music the mystic chord or Prometheus chord is a complex six-note chord, scale, or pitch collection, which loosely serves as the harmonic and melodic basis for some of the later pieces by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin...

  • Mystic chord
  • Atonality
    Atonality
    Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

  • Romantic music
    Romantic music
    Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

  • 20th century classical music
    20th century classical music
    20th century classical music was without a dominant style and highly diverse.-Introduction:At the turn of the century, music was characteristically late Romantic in style. Composers such as Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius were pushing the bounds of Post-Romantic Symphonic writing...


External links


Scores

  • Scriabin's Sheet Music by Mutopia Project
    Mutopia project
    The Mutopia Project is a volunteer-run effort to create a library of free content sheet music, in a way similar to Project Gutenberg's library of public domain books.The music is reproduced from old scores that are out of copyright...


Recordings

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK