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Scriabin, Alexander (1872-1915)

Alexander Scriabin

born: 6 January 1872
died: 27 April 1915
country: Russia

Alexander Scriabin was born into an aristocratic family in Moscow. His father had a military career, while his mother was a pianist, until her death when Alexander (‘Sasha’) was just one year old. Shy and unsociable as a child, Scriabin became fascinated with piano mechanisms. He began lessons with Nikolai Zverev, who also taught Rachmaninov, and quickly became an exceptional student in spite of his small hands. He went on to graduate from the Moscow Conservatory with a gold medal in 1892. However, he failed to complete his composition degree because of differences of opinion with his teacher Anton Arensky and his reluctance to compose in forms that did not interest him.

In 1897 Scriabin married the pianist Vera Isakovich and became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. Over the next five years he produced his études, preludes, and sonatas for solo piano, his only piano concerto, and saw the premiere of his first two symphonies. In 1904 Scriabin and his wife relocated to Switzerland, where they later separated. Scriabin became involved with Tatiana Schlözer, with whom he had children. With the help of a wealthy sponsor, Scriabin spent several years travelling before returning permanently to Russia in 1909, working on his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. He moved away from the Romantic tradition, inventing several new harmonic techniques and straying increasingly into a more contemporary atonality. Influenced by synaesthesia (though not believed to have experienced it himself) and mystic philosophies, he created a colour-coded circle of fifths and his ‘Prometheus’ Symphony includes a part for clavier à lumières (colour organ).

Scriabin died on 27 April 1915 from septicaemia. His funeral in Moscow was attended by so many admirers that it had to be ticketed.


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