The marking of No 1 can be translated as ‘painful, heartrending’; repeatedly it returns to the same wrenching dissonance as if obsessively seeking out a source of pain or grief. Of No 2 (where the bass never leaves Scriabin’s tonal centre of F sharp) the composer said, ‘Here is fatigue, exhaustion … all eternity, millions of years …’. The vague tumult of No 3 rises to a ‘cry’ (Scriabin’s marking), like a shout in the night. The harmonic language is close to that of ‘Flammes sombres’ (‘Dark Flames’), Op 73 No 2. No 4 has the effect of a parenthesis: its style of strict four-part harmony and meandering ‘undecided’ harmony are unique in a composer who wrote so pianistically and always, as he said, ‘according to principle’. Does this signal what could have been a new point of departure for Scriabin? Unique, too, is the simultaneous major and minor third in the final harmony. Phrases from Wells and Shaw come to mind: ‘Mind at the end of its tether’, ‘As far as thought can reach’. No 5 connects with the end of No 3 and with the bellicose vein noted previously. The elements: two-note bass figures, tumultuous up-and-down arpeggiations, are familiar from Op 59 No 2, but the harmonic language and thematic development are taken incalculably further; and, as A E Hull pointed out long ago, the final great descent seems to end Scriabin’s output, intended to be so affirmative, with a tremendous question.
from notes by Simon Nicholls © 2001