The last three sonatas were all written in 1912/3 on a country estate. The Sonata No 8, Op 66, was the last to be finished and is notable among the late works for its length and inward, meditative character—reflected in the rarity in the score of the emotionally charged performance directions of which the composer had become fond. Scriabin never performed the work himself, but spoke enthusiastically of it, and of the exquisite proportions of its form: he thought of his quasi-geometrical organizations as ‘bridges between the visible [the natural world] and the invisible [the conceptual, artistic realm]’. The opening chords he thought of as counterpoint, but a counterpoint where all the parts were ‘at perfect peace’. This may link with his view of the cosmos as ‘a system of correspondences’ and his desire to contemplate things ‘on the level of unity’. A letter to Tatyana Schloezer in 1905 had spoken of a desire to ‘explain the Universe in terms of free creativity’. Boris Asafiev associated the piece with ‘the physical world and the laws of energy’, and the themes are said by Sabaneiev to represent the elements. It is easy to hear the lightness and mobility of air in the recurring cascades of fourths, contrasting with the solidity of earth at the beginning, and a later development of the Allegro theme ebbs and flows like the waves of the sea. The luminous use of trills in this sonata is particularly ravishing. One theme stands out from the others: marked ‘tragique’, it climbs and aspires only to fall back exhausted. Scriabin was particularly taken with the change of mood from hope to despair within this melodic arch, and it is tempting to see in this musical idea, as Faubion Bowers has suggested, the phenomenon of individual consciousness—regarded by Scriabin as an ‘illusion’, but one necessary to the contrast required even in so sophisticated and modified a sonata form as this one. The interpenetration of themes is even more thorough-going than in the Seventh Sonata, and the work’s material is summed up in a final dance of increasing speed, complexity and immateriality where all seems to dissolve into its constituent atoms.
from notes by Simon Nicholls © 1996