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of Scriabin is the Ecstasy of Untrammelled Action, the Joy in Creative
The new harmony is not continuous, but is here used in
SCRIABIN'S PIANO MUSIC
In a CONVENIENT and INEXPENSIVE edition
1. Op. 2, No. 1. Etude, in C-sharp minor: 2. Op. 11, No. 2. Prelude, in
11. Op. 57, No. I. Désir; 12. Op. 74, No. 5. Prelude.
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sprang logically and evolved gradually from the older method. have attempted a psychological explanation of the music-an almost unavoidable course, seeing that it is outlined in the composer's French indications, and that he pursues the same methods, the very same moods, occasionally even the same melodic subject (cf. the trumpet theme with that in ‘Prometheus') as he does in his other symphonic works. But Scriabin, notwithstanding all his explainers and annotators (blessed word!), is the champion of absolute music-music pure and simple-read what you like into it."
Scriabin's father, Alexander Ivanovich, was a lawyer; his mother, Luboff Petrovna Stchetinin, a brilliant pupil of Leschetizky at the Petrograd Conservatory, died of consumption on the shore of Lake Garda in April, 1873, when the boy was hardly a year, old, and he was brought up by his grandmother and an aunt. When he was six years old he showed a remarkable musical ear and an equally remarkable memory. Intended for the army, he was placed in the Moscow Cadet Corps when he was ten years old, but he took piano lessons of G. E. Konus, later Zvierieff, and lessons in theory of Tanéïeff. He was a cadet in his final course, also a candidate for the Moscow Conservatory of Music, where he studied counterpoint with Tanéïeff and the pianoforte with Safonoff. “His taste for composition was to have been cultivated by that ephemerally famous composer, Arensky, who confessed his entire failure to discover any remarkable symptoms of such gifts.” Scriabin, disgusted, left his class. At the Conservatory he met the great patron and publisher of music Belaïeff, with whom he became intimate. Belaïeff recognized Scriabin's talent. When the latter ended his course in 1891, Belaïeff organized a European tour for him. The young virtuoso played in Amsterdam, Brussels, The Hague, Paris, Berlin, and on his return in Russian cities. In the years 1893 to 1897 Scriabin toured as a pianist, travelled for pleasure, and composed; for Belaïeff, who became the sole publisher of Scriabin's music, made à favorable pecuniary arrangement. In 1897 Scriabin became Professor
of Piano Playing at the Moscow Conservatory. In Moscow he was never appreciated as a composer, in fact there was strenuous opposition on the part of professional musicians, while the public, not understanding his compositions, was indifferent or hostile; but Belaïeff, Kussevitsky, Safonoff, Gunst, Conus, and a few others were his enthusiastic friends. Early in 1903 he resigned his position and gave his time to composition. In 1904 he dwelt at St. Beatenberg, Switzerland. In the winter he went to Paris, where his third symphony, "The Divine Poem,” was performed for the first time by Arthur Nikisch (May 29, 1905). For many years he was a wanderer, but he returned often to Beatenberg, and going to Brussels in the fall of 1908 he remained there two years. He became a theosophist. "We are told,” says Dr. Hull, " that Scriabin's theosophy grew out of his music. I can imagine rather that when Scriabin encountered theosophy he immediately embraced a system which harmonized so well with his prevailing musical moods. I do not think, however, we ought to judge theosophy by his music; or his music by theosophy. In 1905-06 he was near Geneva. From February, 1906, until December 2, 1906, he lived in Geneva. In December he came to the United States. He made his first appearance as a pianist in New York at a concert of the Russian Symphony Orchestra, December 20, when he played his concerto for piano with orchestra. He played in Chicago, Washington, Cincinnati, Detroit, and elsewhere, but not in Boston. Returning to Paris, he spent the summer of 1907 at Beatenberg, the winter at his father's, who, having left, some years before, Erzeroum, where he had been Consul, made Lausanne his dwelling-place. Then came the two years in Brussels. In December, 1908, he took with his “Poem of Ecstasy” the second prize (700 roubles), founded by Belaïeff "In Memory of Glinka." The first prize (1,000 roubles) was awarded to the symphony of Rachmaninoff. Leaving Brussels, Scriabin settled in Moscow. He made tours with Kussevitsky, visited Beatenberg again (1911), toured in Holland, Germany, and Russia. Early in 1914 he visited London for the first time, where he played his concerto (March 14), heard his
* "Scriabin" by Dr. A. Eaglefield Hull (London, 1916), p. 48. See also in this volume the chapter “The Sources of his Inspiration," pp. 254-258.--ED.
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"Prometheus," which had been brought out there the year before, and gave piano recitals. The war broke out, but he fulfilled engagements in Moscow, Petrograd, and Charkoff. A boil on his lip, which had troubled him in London, appeared again in 1915. It developed into a carbuncle and blood-poisoning set in. “During one of his terrible paroxysms of pain, Scriabin's mind flew back to the English people. He would be more self-possessed,' he observed, 'like the English.” He died on Tuesday morning, April 14, 1915. All the chief Russian musicians attended the funeral mass on April 16. The procession was through crowded streets. The coffin was borne the whole route to a cloister of the Devitschy Monastery, where he is buried. “A number of young people with linked hands made a chain along the procession, singing the great Russian anthem for the dead, 'Eternal Peace to Him."
Scriabin's chief works are as follows*:-
Reverie, Op. 24. Written while a student at Moscow, published in 1908. Produced by Safonoff at Moscow. Cincinnati Orchestra in Cincinnati, December 2, 1900.
Symphony in E major, No. 1, Op. 26, with choral epilogue. Composed about 1895, produced about 1897, published in 1900. Produced in New York by the Russian Symphony Orchestra, February 28, 1907.
Symphony in C minor, No. 2. Composed sometime before 1903. Published in 1903.
Symphony “The Divine Poem," C minor and major, Op. 43. Composed in 1903, published in 1905. Produced at Paris, May 29, 1905; New York (Russian Symphony Orchestra), March 14, 1907; Philadelphia, November 19, 20, 1915.
“The Poem of Ecstasy,” Op. 54, 1907-08. Produced at New York by the Russian Symphony Orchestra, December 10, 1908. Mischa Elman played there for the first time in this country.
“Prometheus,” or “Poem of Fire.” Begun at Brussels in 1909,
* I'am indebted for this list, as for certain biographical details given above, to Dr. Hull's “Scriabin."-ED.