The Seventh Sonata is a work of thrilling sonorities: the fanfares and hieratic gestures of the opening are complemented by repeated chords which flicker like lightning, and solemnly chiming bells lead into the second theme associated with it, a powerful motive of invocation. Bells have been potent symbols for Russian composers from Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, through Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko to Rachmaninov’s choral setting of Poe. The contrasting second subject symbolizes an unworldly peace; it is associated with arpeggio figures which drift languidly like clouds of incense. The development is concerned mainly with alternations of the two principal themes but also introduces a new, ‘sparkling’ motive like a glimpse of distant light. At the lead-back to the recapitulation, where the first theme appears in the ‘Thalberg’ scoring with astonishing effect, bell-chimes and lightning flashes combine in a veritable storm of sonority. After the recapitulation, a second development, increasingly dominated by the new theme from the main development section, becomes a vertiginous dance, ‘the ultimate dance before the moment of dematerialisation’ according to the composer. The bells peal wildly, culminating in a huge chord extending over five octaves to the top note of the keyboard. The effect of this climactic multiple crossing of hands is like a rippling flash of blinding light. That Scriabin’s ‘dances’ had their own symbolism is shown by his interpretation of the final dissolving trills as images of ‘enervation’, ‘non-existence after the act of love’.
from notes by Simon Nicholls © 1996