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Alexander Scriabin (Composer)

Scriabin, Alexander (Nikolayevich) (b Moscow, 1872; d Moscow, 1915). Russ. composer and pianist, son of a lawyer and his wife who was a brilliant pianist. Prodigy pianist; enrolled in Moscow Cadet School but studied pf. with N. S. Zverev. Entered Moscow Cons. 1888, studying pf. with Safonov and comp. with Taneyev and Arensky. While at the cons., attracted notice of the publisher Belayev who issued his early comps. under generous terms and in 1896 sponsored Scriabin‘s tour of Europe as pianist in his own works. Prof. of pf., Moscow Cons., 1898-1903, an occupation with which he became increasingly bored. Settled in Switz. 1903 when former pupil settled annuity on him. Toured USA 1906-7 and found new publisher and champion in Koussevitzky. Since 1905 he had been under the influence of Mme. Blavatsky‘s theosophy and mystical influences; regarded his works from that date as preparation for a ‘supreme ecstatic mystery’ which would accompany a final cataclysm. Toured Russ. 1910 with Koussevitzky‘s orch. and in 1911 perf. his works with Mengelberg and Concertgebouw Orch. of Amsterdam. Visited London 1914 for perf. of his Prometheus under Wood and to play his pf. conc. and give recitals. Toured Russ. 1914 then became ill, dying from septicaemia from tumour on his lip.

Scriabin‘s early works are strongly flavoured by Chopin and Liszt. As he developed his personal theories he grew harmonically bolder in his pf. works, using chords built of 4ths and sometimes of 2nds, sometimes achieving what has been called ‘impressionist atonality’. In his sym.-poem, Prometheus, and 7th pf. sonata, he developed the ‘mystic’ chord, a series of 4ths—C, F#, Bb, E, A, and D. This extreme chromaticism was combined with a strong feeling for classical form. His obsession with extra-mus. ideas has tended to divert attention from the undoubted excellent qualities of his mus. Prin. works:

ORCH.: syms.: No.1 in E, with ch. (1899-1900, f.p. 1901), No.2 in C minor (c. 1901, f.p. 1902), No.3 in C, Bozhestvennaya poema (Divine Poem, 1902-4, f.p. 1905); sym.-poems: in D minor (1896-7); Poema ekstasa (Poem of Ecstasy, 1905-8, f.p. 1908), Prometei, Poema Ogyna (Prometheus, the Poem of Fire, 1908-10, f.p. 1911); pf. conc. in F# minor (1896, f.p. 1897).

PIANO: sonatas: No.1 in F minor (1892), No.2 in G# minor (Fantasy) (1892-7), No.3 in F# minor (1897), No.4 in F# (1903), No.5 in F# (1907), No.6 in G (1911), No.7 in F# (White Mass) (1911), No.8 in A (1913), No.9 in F (Black Mass) (1913), No.10 in C (1913); 24 Études; 85 Preludes; Concert Allegro in Bb minor; Waltzes, Impromptus, Mazurkas, etc.

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