Aleksandr Scriabin, in full Aleksandr
Nikolayevich Scriabin, Scriabin also spelled Skriabin, or Skryabin
(born Dec. 25, 1871 [Jan. 6, 1872, New Style], Moscow, Russia—died
April 14 [April 27], 1915, Moscow), Russian composer of piano and
orchestral music noted for its unusual harmonies through which the
composer sought to explore musical symbolism.
Scriabin was trained as a soldier
at the Moscow Cadet School from 1882 to 1889 but studied music at
the same time and took piano lessons. In 1888 he entered the Moscow
Conservatory, where he studied the piano with V.I. Safonov and
composition with Sergey Taneyev and Anton Arensky. By 1892, when he
graduated from the conservatory, he had composed the piano pieces
that constitute his opuses 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7. In 1897 he married the
pianist Vera Isakovich and from 1898 until 1903 taught at the Moscow
Conservatory. He then devoted himself entirely to composition and in
1904 settled in Switzerland. After 1900 he was much preoccupied with
mystical philosophy, and his Symphony No. 1, composed in that year,
has a choral finale, to his own words, glorifying art as a form of
religion. In Switzerland he completed his Symphony No. 3, first
performed under Arthur Nikisch in Paris in 1905. The literary
“program” of this work, devised by Tatiana Schloezer, with whom he
had formed a relationship after abandoning his wife, was said to
represent “the evolution of the human spirit from pantheism to unity
with the universe.” Theosophical ideas similarly provided the basis
of the orchestral Poem of Ecstasy (1908) and Prometheus (1911),
which called for the projection of colours onto a screen during the
From 1906 to 1907 Scriabin toured
the United States, where he gave concerts with Safonov and the
conductor Modest Altschuler, and in 1908 he frequented theosophical
circles in Brussels. In 1909 he was encouraged by the conductor
Serge Koussevitzky, who both performed and published his works, to
return to Russia. By then he was no longer thinking in terms of
music alone; he was looking forward to an all-embracing “Mystery.”
This work was planned to open with a “liturgical act” in which
music, poetry, dancing, colours, and scents were to unite to induce
in the worshipers a “supreme, final ecstasy.” He wrote the poem of
the “Preliminary Action” of the “Mystery” but left only sketches for
Scriabin’s reputation stems from
his grandiose symphonies and his sensitive, exquisitely polished
piano music. His piano works include 10 sonatas (1892–1913), an
early concerto, and many preludes and other short pieces. Although
Scriabin was an idolater of Frédéric Chopin in his youth, he early
developed a personal style. As his thought became more and more
mystical, egocentric, and ingrown, his harmonic style became ever
less generally intelligible. Meaningful analysis of his work only
began appearing in the 1960s, and yet his music had always attracted
a devoted following among modernists.
Alexander Scriabin was born
into an aristocratic family in Moscow and grew up a precocious
and egocentric child. After spending nine years in the Moscow
Cadet Corps, where music played a significant part in the
curriculum, he entered the Moscow Conservatoire at the age of
16. There he met Rachmaninov; they were to remain firm friends
despite attempts by the press to create a rivalry between them.
Scriabin left the Conservatoire
to pursue a career as a concert pianist in 1892 and became
renowned for his interpretations of works by composers such as
Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann. In 1894 he met the Russian
publisher Belyayev who took complete control of Scriabin's
musical affairs and immediately published his first Piano
sonata, a work clearly influenced by the example of Chopin.
The years 1895 and 1896 were
taken up with extensive concert tours in Europe. He composed
prolifically, mainly concentrating on short but dramatic pieces
such as the set of 24 Preludes (Opus 11) for the piano. On
returning to Moscow hejoined the staff at the Conservatoire and
married a gifted piano student.
Scriabin's first major success
as an orchestral composer came in 1900 when his First symphony
was performed. Consisting of six movements, it includes a choral
finale that sets to music a text praising art written by
Scriabin himself. By 1902 he was becoming increasingly
preoccupied with philosophical and mystical ideas. A deeply
serious man, he now gained a reputation for indulging in
prolonged intellectual debate. His thirst for inner knowledge
made him ever more isolated from everyday reality and increased
his egocentricity. But if his personality was adversely
affected, his compositions now became less derivative, more
adventurous, and increasingly complex and dissonant.
During this period he wrote the
Third Symphony, completed in 1903, which takes the form of one
gigantic movement and juxtaposes lyrical passages with moments
of great violence.
In 1904 he again left Russia
and travelled around Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium. He did not
take his wife, having become involved with a much younger woman.
His new companion apparently provided the admiration bordering
on hero-worship that Scriabin demanded, and the relationship
stimulated another period of intense activity. He wrote a
lengthy text entitled La роеmе de l'extase (Poem of ecstasy)
that formed the basis for several future compositions, including
the Fifth piano sonata and a complex orchestral work bearing the
name of the text.
The following year Scriabin
returned to Russia and composed his last five sonatas for piano,
all of which are extraordinarily dense and dramatic in impact.
Although he was to die at the early age of 43, his music
achieved immense popularity during his final years and he
enjoyed international fame and recognition.
6:36 No.1 in F minor Op.6 I.
11:26 No.1 in F minor Op.6 II.
14:46 No.1 in F minor Op.6 III.
21:00 No.1 in F minor Op.6 IV.
29:25 No.2 in G sharp minor Op.19 I.
33:27 No.2 in G sharp minor Op.19 II.
35:49 No.3 in F sharp minor Op.23 I.
41:01 No.3 in F sharp minor Op.23 II.
47:27 No.3 in F sharp minor Op.23 III.
53:21 No.4 in F sharp major Op.30 I.
56:31 No.4 in F sharp major Op.30 II.
Alexander Scriabin - Essential Piano Works
Alexander Scriabin - Complete Mazurkas -- Piano Works
Vladimir Sofronitsky plays Scriabin 20 Preludes from 24 Preludes Op.