Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Memoriam - Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This week’s Once Upon the Internet highlights the 100th anniversary of the passing of mystic, visionary, virtuoso, and composer Alexander Scriabin with a modest sampling of some of his compositions.

According to the 
AMG, Scriabin dedicated his life to creating musical works which would, as he believed, open the portals of the spiritual world. Scriabin took piano lessons as a child, joining, in 1884, Nikolay Zverov's class, where Rachmaninov was a fellow student. From 1888 to 1892, Scriabin studied piano and started composing at the Moscow Conservatory, where his teachers included Arensky,Taneyev, and Safonov

Mostly inspired by Chopin, his early works include nocturnes, mazurkas, preludes, and etudes for piano. Typical examples of Romantic music for the piano, these works nevertheless reveal the composer's strong individuality. Today’s playlist includes a few of those works, from his op. 8 etudes and a pair of works for the left hand.

Toward the end of the century, Scriabin started writing orchestral works, the first such work being his only piano concerto. At only 24 and needing a piano concerto to show off his abilities in concert, Scriabin was still using the idiom set forth by Chopin for his piano writing, and here he took on Chopin's orchestral mannerisms, as well, although Scriabin's orchestra takes a much more active and partner-like role than Chopin's does in his concertos. Scriabin completed the concerto in only a few days in the fall of 1896, but didn't finish the orchestration until the following May and did not premiere the work until October 23, 1897. Also a favorite of Rachmaninov's, he conducted the composer in a 1911 performance and later performed the work himself at a memorial for Scriabin in 1915.

As we said, it is not surprising that in Scriabin's early compositions the influence of Chopin and Lisztseems more powerful than the composer's own voice. In 1903, Scriabin abandoned his wife and their four children and embarked on a European journey with a young admirer, Tatyana Schloezer. During his sojourn in Western Europe, which lasted six years, Scriabin started developing an original, highly personal musical idiom, experimenting with new harmonic structures and searching for new sonorities. While Scriabin never quite crossed the threshold to atonality, his music nevertheless replaced the traditional concept of tonality by an intricate system of chords, some of which (e.g., the "mystic chord": C-F sharp-B flat-E-A-D) had an esoteric meaning. Scriabin's gradual move into realms beyond traditional tonality can be clearly heard in his ten piano sonatas; the last five, composed during 1912-1913, are without key signatures and certainly contain atonal moments. 
The Fourth Sonata from 1903, demonstrates how Scriabin’s musical approaches embrace the eventual atonal revolution that he would, completely independently from Arnold Schoenberg or any other composer, carry out on his music in the years before World War I. Four years later, the Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, by eschewing any traditional constraints of a central tonal area.

In 1915, Scriabin died in of septicemia caused by a carbuncle on his lip. Among his unfinished project was Mysterium, a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world.

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Piano Concerto in F-Sharp Minor, op 20 
Margarita Fyodorova, piano
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra
Fuat Mansurov, conducting

Sonata no. 4 in F-Sharp Minor, op. 30
Evgeni Mikhailov, piano 

Sonata no. 5 in F-Sharp Major, op. 53 
Jan Gottlieb Jiracek, piano

Etude in B Flat minor, op. 8, no. 11
Shoshana Rudiakov, piano

Pièces pour la main gauche seulement, op. 9 
Brent D. Hugh, piano 

MP3.COM - 18 February 2002

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