"Portrait of Alexander Skriabin"

Author Rinat Kuramshin

Alexander Nikolaevich Scriabin (1871 -  1915)  was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher and a representative of symbolism in music. His was the first who used color in music having created the “color music”.

At the age of 5, Scriabin plaid the piano and then he became interested in composition. But due to the family tradition, he enlisted in the Second Moscow Cadet Corps. Scriabin decided to dedicate himself to music and started to take private lessons from G. Konyus, then N. Zverev and S. Taneyev. Scriabin entered the Moscow Conservatory and became a student of V. Safonov (piano) and A. Arensky (composition). After graduation, Scriabin became an independent composer and pianist. He toured a lot in Russia and abroad and composed music. M. Belyayev  (a rich wood dealer and philanthropist) started to publish his works having noticed the talent of the young composer. Scriabin established  relationships with other musicians, for example, with the “Belyayev Circle” in Petersburg which included N. Rimsky-Korsakov, A. Glazunov, A. Lyadov and others.

In 1894, Scriabin’s right hand cramped  and he could not play for some time. Scriabin met pianist Vera Isakovich in August of 1897 and married her. Having restored the hand’s abilities, Scriabin with the wife went abroad where he plaid his own music for living.

In September of 1898, Scriabin became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory and in 1903 he began to teach at the Ekaterinisky Institute for Girls. A year later, he quit teaching because it distracted him from composing music.

At the end of 1902, Scriabin met Tatiana Schlozer, a niece of Paul de Schlozer, professor of the Moscow Conservatory. She became his second wife.

Until 1910, Scriabin spent much time abroad (mainly in France, later in Brussel performing as a pianist and conductor). Having returned to Moscow, he continued giving concerts and composing music.  

The new “Silver Age” saw a desperate search for new ways and forms of art. Scriabin learned the symbolists’ outlook having come to an idea that music had a magic power with a mission to save the world. Also, he became interested in philosophy of Helena Blavatsky. These ideas brought him to a concept of the Mysterium which became  the focus of his life. The Mysterium was considered by Scriabin to be a grandiose work combining all kinds of art – music, poetry, dance and architecture. It was supposed to be not a pure artistic piece but a special “great collective action” in which all the mankind would take part. The plan was so grandiose that it impressed the author himself. He was afraid of approaching it, so continued to create “ordinary” musical pieces.

Aleksand Scriabin and Tatiana Shletser

Sheet music "Waltz" 1931 A. Scriabin

A.Scriabin (sitting to the left of the table) as a guest at the house of V.Metzl in Berlin. 1910

Scriabin was influenced early in his life by the works of F.Chopin whom he loved so much. According to his contemporaries, he plaid his music excellently. But later on, he started composing poems for the piano and the orchestra. He composed three big symphonies for the orchestra (the First Poem was created in 1900, the Second Poem   was composed in 1902, and the Third Poem was composed in 1904). Also, he composed the Poem of Ecstasy  (1907) and the Prometheus (1910). The symphonic poem Prometheus score included a part of a color organ. Thus, Scriabin became the first composer who used the color music.

Out of the three pieces the first prize belongs to the Third Symphony which was premiered in Paris (1905 ) under direction of  A. Nikish. It was a tremendously innovative in expression and ideas piece of art, the first heroic ideals in Scriabin’s music. As per the memoirs of the contemporaries, the Third Symphony made a stunning, a great and a grandiose impression on the audience.  

During Diaghilev’s Russian Music Concerts in Paris (1907), Scriabin showed his almost finished Poem of Ecstasy which was even more innovative in terms of ideas and musical language than the Third Symphony, and was not understood by the audience at once. The triumph of the Poem of Ecstasy began only when it was brilliantly performed by Scriabin’s friend, the great conductor M. Altshuller in New-York. 

А. Scriabin came into the Russian music as a unique  and talented person, a brave innovator, a brilliant seeker of new ways whose creative work much influenced the further development of music in the XX century.